Kirk Palmer Associates Leading President Search for Famous Footwear

April 10, 2018 – Famous Footwear recently announced that its president, Rick Ausick, will retire this year as part of a planned succession. The company has turned to retail-focused executive search firm Kirk Palmer Associates to find his replacement. Mr. Ausick will remain actively involved and participate in day-to-day operations during both the search and transition.

“The Caleres board of directors and its executive leadership has been preparing for Rick’s retirement by developing a deep bench of strong leaders at Famous Footwear and by expanding the breadth and depth of our brand portfolio,” said Diane Sullivan, CEO, president and chairman of the St. Louis-based parent company of Famous Footwear. “We are actively managing the search for Rick’s successor, and, since it is incredibly important for us to find the right person for this role, we are considering both internal and external candidates. Our goal is to ensure a thoughtful, seamless transition.”

Famous Footwear is a nationwide chain of retail stores that sell branded footwear, generally at prices discounted from manufacturer’s suggested prices. The chain maintains over 1,125 storefronts.

Founded in 1987, Kirk Palmer Associates is composed entirely of retail and fashion industry veterans. The firm’s partners have placed more than 1,000 CEOs, presidents, vice presidents and other senior executives at over 200 retail and wholesale companies across all channels, sectors and functional areas.


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Retail Sector

Retailers are facing major shifts in their businesses that call for “unprecedented responses” by CEOs who can effectively lead through change, intuitively and analytically understand the evolving consumer and respond to ambiguity, according to Korn Ferry. Developed markets, excess retail capacity, rising prices, the shift to omni-channel retail and the unpredictable pace of change in consumer shopping habits all affect the type of leader retailers now need.

Transformational chief executives are regarded as innovative leaders with a world view. And they are clearly in high demand. Herbert Mines Associates, a recruitment firm that specializes in the retail and consumer areas, recently reported that 31 percent of incoming retail CEOs consider international expansion a key strategic priority, making that global mindset a competitive differentiator. Many of the search firm’s short lists now include executives with this background.

In recent years, 47 percent of public retail companies with revenues exceeding $1 billion underwent a chief executive change (up from 34 percent during the previous three years). During the past 10 years, 71 percent of retail companies have experienced a switch in CEO. That’s good news for recruiters mining the space for search work.


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Sonia Prais, a partner in the retail, beauty & lifestyle practice group at Ward Howell International, acknowledged that retail is undergoing a challenging period. “However, those who move nimbly, truly listen to their customers, learn how to respond on a ‘real-time’ basis to their needs, give outstanding customer service, and truly offer a highly efficient and workable omni-channel experience that entertains their customers will prevail and thrive,” she said.

“E-commerce has delivered and will continue to deliver as promised, and stores that have over-saturated with ‘bricks and mortar’ will adjust,” said Ms. Prais. “Customers still want to visit actual stores but that option must be offered in conjunction with the most up-to-date technology, whether in the store, on a mobile device, in an office, or at home. The retailers who will win and thrive will be those who can offer a seamless shopping experience. Clients are hiring for e-commerce, mobile development and roles that enhance customer experience and enjoyment. That’s where we see big opportunities ahead for talent.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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