Retailer names CEO, announces other leadership changes
Bonnie Brooks has been interim president and CEO of Chico’s FAS since April.
Business Observer Staff
| 7:15 a.m. July 19, 2019
FORT MYERS — The continuation of the reinvention of women’s retailer Chico’s FAS hit a significant mark Thursday, with the appointment of Bonnie Brooks as president and CEO. Brooks, who replaced Shelley Broader on an interim basis in April, will also remain a board member, according to a statement.
Brooks has had a long career in retail, including serving as vice chair, president and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Co., with brands that include Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Off Fifth. The Chico’s board spoke with external candidates, but Chairman David Walker, in the statement, says “the best way to build on the progress underway at this time is to appoint Bonnie as CEO.”
Adds Walker: "Since being appointed Interim CEO, Bonnie has moved quickly to sharpen the Company's focus on core priorities that have stabilized the business and positioned Chico's FAS to deliver improved top- and bottom-line results. In addition to providing continuity, Bonnie's leadership enables us to continue leveraging both her experience driving numerous successful turnarounds at other apparel retailers as well as the knowledge she already has of Chico's FAS."
The move, part of several other leadership changes, is “aligned to drive a simpler, nimbler organization focused on the company's priorities of accelerating sustainable sales growth,” the release states.
In addition to Brooks, responsibility for the company's apparel brands has been consolidated under one leader, Molly Langenstein. A 30-year retail industry veteran, Langenstein joins Chico's FAS after nearly three decades with Macy's, where she was most recently General Business Manager, Ready-to-Wear, the release states. Langenstein was named president of the Chico's FAS Apparel Group, effective Aug. 1. She will oversee all business activities for the Chico's and White House Black Market brands.
The company's intimate brands, Soma and TellTale, will continue to be led by Mary van Praag, president, Intimates Group, who joined Chico’s in September 2017. Chico's Brand President Karen McKibbin, meanwhile, resigned earlier this week to pursue other opportunities, the release states.
The leadership appointments follow a turbulent period at the company. Same-store sales dropped 4.9% in the last fiscal year, and total revenue declined 8.7% in 2018, from $2.3 billion to $2.1 billion. The company announced earlier this year it will close hundreds of stores across all three brands to reduce costs and re-orient its retail strategies.
Private equity firm Sycamore Partners, based partially on the sales underperformance, has made three buyout offers for the company since May. The Chico’s board has rejected the offer, including on in June for $3 per share in cash, saying it substantially undervalued the company.
“The leadership structure announced today will strengthen the organization, create clear lines of responsibility and accelerate our sales driving priorities,” says Brooks in the release. “I am confident we are focused on the right areas and moving in the right direction with stronger performance expected in the second half of the year.”