W. Michael Madden resigned from the company’s top role in April. Managing partner Elaine Erickson led the assignment. Mr. Woodward assumes his new job on Oct. 22nd.
“I was honored to assist the Kirkland’s board to place an executive such as Steve Woodward to become their new CEO,” said Ms. Erickson. “His experience and reputation in the retail community will serve the company, the board and its shareholders very well.”
Mike Cairnes, Kirkland’s acting CEO, who had been executive vice president, now becomes president. He will also return to his previous duties as the company’s chief operating officer.
Wilson Orr, chairman of Kirkland’s, had high praise for the new CEO. “Woody is a world-class merchant who has been instrumental in the success of iconic brands and retailers in the home furnishings and fashion industries,” said Mr. Orr. “His skill-set, proven record as a merchant leader and plan for realizing the true potential of our company will complement Mike Cairnes’ abilities as a highly effective leader and operator.”
“We have a deep, experienced team at Kirkland’s, and this new leadership will help us build on recent momentum in the stores as well as investments in supply chain and buy-online-and-pick-up-in-store that can support profitable long-term growth,” said Mr. Orr.
Mr. Woodward joins Kirkland’s from Crate and Barrel, where he was president and chief merchant. Since starting at Crate and Barrel in 2015, he had been responsible for all aspects of merchandising, including sourcing, product design and assortment selection for the global omni-channel home furnishings retailer. Prior to Crate & Barrel, Mr. Woodward was senior VP of licensed watches and jewelry for Fossil, where he was head of the Michael Kors watch and jewelry business. He has also served as executive VP and general merchandise manager of the Bombay Company, CEO of Illuminations and VP of Pier 1 Imports.
“Woody and I are closely aligned on continuing the key strategic initiatives that build both the foundational and future success of Kirkland’s,” said Mr. Cairnes, who was also placed by Preston & Partners in 2017. “I am looking forward to partnering with him to fully develop the Kirkland’s brand and realize the potential for sales growth and margin improvement.”
Mr. Woodward said he was excited about his new role. “My 40 years of merchant and leadership experience in specialty home, supported by the important strides in recent months by Mike and the team, will enable us to move quickly,” he said. “Our goal is to deliver excellent, relevant and affordable assortments — both at retail and online — that stimulate and excite our shoppers.”
Kirkland’s, founded in 1966, is a specialty retailer of home décor in the U.S. Originally focused in the Southeast, the company has since grown to operate 431 stores in 37 states.
Veteran Search Consultants
Preston & Partners, with offices in Charlotte, NC and New York City, has an extensive network and national capability. Its focus areas include all channels of retail, consumer products, organic and natural products, manufacturing and operations, IT, and health and life sciences.
“We are very pleased that our retail practice within the firm continues to grow under the leadership of Elaine,” said Gary Preston, senior managing partner. “She delivers to her clients with intention and purpose and is an inspiration to search professionals across our practice.”
Ms. Erickson has strong relationships with retailers and manufacturers ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. She has placed candidates in VP-level through C-level positions and completed senior-level engagements with Bob’s Discount Furniture, Burlington Stores, Cracker Barrel and Dollar General. She served as president of retail focused search firm Kenzer Corporation for 31 years prior to joining Preston & Partners in 2008.
Retail Sector Seeks Innovative Leaders
According to recruiters specializing in finding retail sector leadership, retailers face major shifts in the workplace that require transformational leaders who are innovative leaders with a world view.
So what areas within the industry are most active? “The searches that I am conducting are centered on process improvement and differentiation of the brand,” said Ms. Erickson. “I have had many searches in marketing, branding, IT, merchandise planning & allocation, localization and supply chain. All of those categories speak to: ‘How are we going to do it better, get superior information, improve inventories, and source more efficiently.’ Of course, omni-channel is also critical in retailing and many of my searches are addressing that.”
Within the retail sector, Preston & Partners has recently filled a number of roles, including COO, EVP of sales & merchandising, SVP of operations, SVP of localization, VP of merchandising, VP of planning & allocation, VP of merchandise information operations, CIO, VP of marketing and VP of product and process development.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media