Only a few months after firing a CEO with deep roots in the world of luxury, Lands’ End (LE)has again tapped an executive with experience in upscale retail to lead it out of a protracted slump.
Lands’ End said on Monday it had hired Jerome Griffith, most recently the top executive at high end luggage maker Tumi Holdings who oversaw that company’s sale this year to Samsonite International for $1.8 billion. Griffith, also a former Esprit Holdings, Tommy Hilfiger and Gap Inc (GPS) executive earlier in his career, starts his job on March 6th.
“As Lands’ End continues its evolution at the forefront of the retail industry, we believe Jerome’s experience and tactical execution will improve financial performance and build sustainable long-term value for stockholders,” said Lands’ End chairman Josephine Linden in a statement.
Griffith has his work cut out for him.
The change in the corner office comes almost three months after Lands’ End ousted former Dolce & Gabbana and Ferrari executive Federica Marchionni barely a year and a half into job, a move that showed the futility of her strategy of trying to take such a classic Middle American brand upscale.
Marchionni, a stylish 44-year-old Italian executive who wore tailored suits and stilettos, was brought in in February 2015 to do just that, hoping to improve the fortunes of a brand best known for kids’ uniforms and outdoor clothing and had been through three CEOs in the previous decade (she was the 6th since 2002). Adding to its pain was its reliance on former parent Sears Holdings (SHLD) for physical locations, aging customers and a sluggish retail market.
At a holiday season preview for Fortune last summer, Marchionni showed off well-crafted cashmere throws, monogrammed pajamas, fine glassware, and even artisanal cheese collections for $50. A far cry from the sensible, almost dowdy merchandise Lands’ End legion of long time customers turn to it for. Also on display by Dodgeville, Wisconin-based Lands’ End: the new Canvas by Lands’ End line, featuring a $600 men’s jacket and brocade dresses. Marchionni’s efforts drew comparisons to J.C. Penney’s (JCP) efforts under fired CEO Ron Johnson four years earlier to make that department store chain hipper.
She was also criticized for not moving to Dodgeville but instead staying based in New York. A Lands’ End spokesman told Fortune that Griffith would relocate to Wisconsin.
In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, Lands’ End’s total sales fell 7.3% to $876.9 million, and Lands’ End swung to a loss of almost $15 million. The retailer got slammed by a 14.3% decrease in same store sales and fewer Lands’ End boutiques at Sears, which spun off the brand in 2014 as part of a multi-year divestiture of key assets to maintain liquidity amid huge losses at Sears Holdings. Lands’ End started life more than 50 years ago as a catalog business.
Though Griffith will have to be mindful about not trying to take Lands’ End upmarket, he does have a track record for refreshing brands and fostering growth: between 2009 and 2015, the full fiscal years on his watch, Tumi’s revenues rose from $196 million to $547 million and the company expanded internationally and built out a fleet of airport stores. He’s also used to dealing with struggling department stores, a key source of distribution for Tumi.
Investors gave his nomination a thumbs up, sending shares up 3.8% on Monday morning. But shares have a long way to go: they have fallen by more than two-thirds in the last two years.