Who's on first?
Jennifer Marks, editor-in-chief -- Home Textiles Today, 2/10/2003 12:00:00 AM
Yikes! What a week. Winter Market, the New York Gift Show and more changes in the executive suite at retail than you could shake a stick at. For an industry that thrives on gossip, innuendo and speculation, the week offered a bonanza of actual events to ponder over.
The biggest bombshell, of course, was the abrupt exit of Linens 'n Things president Steve Silverstein after more than a decade at the company, the past two in the leadership post. His resignation dovetailed with LNT's announcement that profits for 2002, excluding one-time charges, climbed 24 percent, that sales jumped 20 percent and that the company had finally broken through the $2 billion sales barrier.
As chairman and ceo Norman Axelrod assumed Silverstein's duties, he set his sites on doubling revenue over the next three years to $4 billion. That is a fantastically ambitious goal — one that requires the company to add $600 million in sales each year, roughly double the $270 million in new annual revenue LNT has averaged over the past five years. Could this mean there's an acquisition in LNT's future?
Silverstein's was not the only senior spot that turned over last week.
Filene's Basement got a new chief, with the appointment of Heywood Wilansky as president and ceo, replacing Alan Schlensigner, who resigned in early January. Wilansky, who held the same dual title at The Bon-Ton Stores from 1995 to 2000, has been given the mission of expanding the 20-store chain into new markets and ultimately spinning it off from parent Value City into a freestanding company. That's a tall order in an off-price market that's growing increasingly less regional.
There was a changing of the guard at Stein Mart as well, this one previously announced, when company president Michael Fisher took on the additional role of ceo as John Williams Jr. retired after 23 years. Williams joined Stein Mart when it was a three-store operation and leaves behind a 265-unit chain with $1.4 billion in sales. Fisher, a 10-year Stein Mart veteran, started as exec vp, stores before being appointed president and coo two years ago. Now he faces the prospect of keeping up the momentum in an increasingly crowded field of apparel/home combo stores.
Finally, Spiegel Group cfo James Cannataro resigned last week after 18 years to take a similar position at another company. The news broke a day after the troubled retail company's auditor expressed "substantial doubt" about the company's ability to continue as a going concern. Whoever steps into his shoes will have to grapple with the fact that substantially all of the company's debt is currently due and payable, as well as its failure so far to negotiate amended agreements with its lenders.
All in all, the Class of 2003 faces a challenging agenda in a field that remains over-crowded with stores. The inevitable liquidation of weaker players over the next year or two will not be enough to get them where they want to go. Let the battle of inches begin.
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