June 24, 2019 – Following an extensive national search, Spencer Stuart has recruited veteran retail and omnichannel executive Allison O’Connor as the new CEO of home furnishings brand Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
“We are thrilled to have Allison coming aboard,” said Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chairman. “She has a proven track record in building an omnichannel business with excellence. I know she will be a tremendous asset to our company. Allison has the skills — and equally important, the heart — to help us carry our ethos forward while keeping us at the forefront of our industry, as we have been over the last 30 years.”
Ms. O’Connor brings deep experience in both apparel and home specialty retail. She has over 30 years of merchandising and retail leadership at leading brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Terrain and Williams-Sonoma. Most recently, she helped lead the significant expansion and growth of the leading Australian homewares brand, Sheridan.
“Allison’s experience is exactly what our company needs,” said Bob Williams, co-founder and president of design. “When I first met her, I was taken with her intellect and warmth, and that she is a ‘shopkeeper’ at her core.”
“I have long admired and been a fan of the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams brand, and I am excited to be joining them as CEO,” said Ms. O’Connor, who will spearhead the brand’s next phase of growth. “Together we will expand all facets of the business. The opportunity to start with a solid platform that is poised for additional growth was a key attraction for me.”
Kent Sorrells, managing director of the Stephens Group, the company’s principal investor, said Ms. O’Connor’s hiring reflects the evolution of the company into its next phase of expansion into a full omnichannel leader in the home furnishings space. “All of us look forward to supporting Allison in her new role,” he said.
The company offers employee-friendly benefits that help attract top talent, including a not-for-profit, education-based on-site daycare center and a health-conscious gourmet café run by the company’s corporate chef. It also provides health fairs, an on-site nurse and college scholarships for children of employees.
Based in Taylorsville, NC, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams operates a state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution center spanning close to one million square feet that supports the brand’s expanding retail, wholesale, office and contract/ hospitality sectors.
Since 2014, the company has been backed by the Stephens Group, a family-owned investment firm based in Little Rock, AR. The Stephens Group uses its permanent capital base and extensive resources to support private companies with compelling growth opportunities in pursuit of their long-term strategies.
Top Five Search Firm
Spencer Stuart’s CEO practice, for its part, has conducted nearly 1,500 CEO search and succession assignments over the past five years. Veteran recruiter Jim Citrin leads the firm’s North American CEO sector group. During his 20-plus years with the firm, Mr. Citrin has worked with clients on more than 600 CEO, board director, CFO and other top management searches and CEO succession assignments.
Korn Ferry Recruits CEO for J. Crew
Korn Ferry assisted apparel retailer J. Crew in placing James Brett as its CEO. A leader with more than 25 years of retail experience, Mr. Brett most recently served as president of specialty home furnishing company West Elm, a member of the Williams-Sonoma Inc. portfolio.
Global retail company Mattel retained the search firm this past year to assist with its CEO succession plan. That search concluded with the appointment of Margaret H. Georgiadis as its new leader. The toymaker considered both insiders and outsiders when it embarked on the search. But in the end the decision was to go outside, to Google, where Ms. Georgiadis served as president Americas since 2011.
Challenges Facing the Retail Sector
According to Herbert Mines Associates, 31 percent of incoming retail CEOs are focused on international expansion as a key strategic priority, making that global mindset a competitive differentiator when searching for new leaders.
Retail CEO turnover is accelerating. Herbert Mines reported that 47 percent of public retail companies with revenues exceeding $1 billion experienced a chief executive change the past five years (up from 34 percent during the previous three years). Since 2007, 71 percent of retail companies have experienced a switch in CEO.
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