FORT MYERS — Women’s retailer Chico’s FAS, one of the largest employers in Southwest Florida, promoted division president Molly Langenstein to president and CEO — part of what the company called a planned succession “designed to strengthen and provide ongoing stability and continuity.”
The appointment of Langenstein, who had been president of the company’s two largest brands, Chico’s and White House Black Market, since August, is effective June 24, according to a statement. The Fort Myers-based company, which posted $2.03 billion in revenue in 2019, also announced several other leadership after the close of markets April 29. Changes include:
• Current CEO and President Bonnie Brooks, who was named to her position in April 2019 to lead the company’s turnaround, will now become executive chairwoman of the board and continue to oversee the company’s strategic direction;
• Board member William Simon, former president and CEO of Walmart U.S. and senior advisor to private equity firm KKR, will assume the role of lead independent director;
• David Walker, who has served as board chairman for the past five years, will remain a member on the board; and
• Langenstein will become a board member of the board.
A 30-year retail fashion veteran, Langenstein spent 30 years at Macy’s, where she headed up several units, from the chain’s millennial-focused lines to overseeing the ready-to-wear group, a multibillion-dollar business.
“Molly joined the Company in August to reposition and rebuild our two significant apparel brands,” Brooks says in the statement. “She has proven to be an exceptional leader who quickly seized the immediate opportunities of improving product assortments, driving sales and recruiting senior talent, particularly in merchandising, digital and marketing.”
“Throughout the fall period, the company demonstrated its capacity to dramatically change its performance trajectory, which continued strongly into the pre-COVID-19 spring season. Molly has shown superb leadership during both this high growth phase and particularly in the current environment, as we pivot to a post-COVID-19 operating model,” Brooks adds. “The new culture of agility, and the ability to grow sales while reducing expenses, has already served us well during this period, and I am confident we have a path forward for a sustainable future with Molly at the helm of the company.”
Langenstein, addressing the challenges at Chico’s and White House Black Market in a late 2019 interview told the Business Observer ““I’ve always gravitated toward businesses that were a little messy, that had a little bit of issues. I like fixing things.”
One of her early focuses was to improve the customer experience. “I’m honored to lead this company of customer and product obsessed people and three unique brands, each thriving in their own market white space to provide solutions that women say give them confidence and joy,” Langenstein says in the release. “Starting next week, all three brands will begin to open stores in a phased rollout to immediately deliver sales.”
Chico’s, founded in 1983 on Sanibel Island, operates three brands: Chico’s, White House Black Market and Soma. As of Feb. 1, it operated 1,341 stores in the U.S. and Canada and sold merchandise through 70 international franchise locations in Mexico and 2 domestic franchise airport locations.