With the world economy tanking, many retailers and vendors are in crisis management mode.

They’re cutting expenses, reducing payroll, scrambling to get inventories in tandem with tepid sales, reexamining offerings and closing stores. In the most dire cases, it’s bankruptcy, although liquidations, happening at Mervyns and Linens-N-Things, are becoming as commonplace as Chapter 11s.

Regardless of their financial health or geographic reach, all retailers, big and small, are searching for ways to weather the global storm and determine the right strategies and programs to plant now to capitalize on better times in the future.

Against this backdrop, retail and fashion executives will convene at the WWD/DNR CEO Summit on Oct. 27-28 at the St. Regis in Manhattan. Given the state of things, this year’s theme, “Leadership and Vision: What It Takes,” is particularly relevant. The summit will provide an opportunity to hear from the professionals and the pundits, and after their prepared comments and Q&As, network with them as well.

Among those presenting is turnaround artist extraordinaire Allen Questrom, who epitomizes leadership and led the rebuilding of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. from 2000 to 2004 as its chairman and chief executive officer. Prior to Penney’s, Questrom ran Barneys New York Inc., leading the specialty retailer out of bankruptcy and bringing new directions to the business, such as the Co-op. In 1990, Questrom, also a former Neiman Marcus Inc. ceo, gave up the reins at Neiman Marcus to become chairman and ceo of the former Federated Department Stores Inc., successfully lifting the retailer out of bankruptcy and orchestrating its takeover of Macy’s Inc. Questrom is currently a senior adviser of Lee Equity Partners LLC, and on the boards of Sotheby’s Holdings Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Another star will be designer Alber Elbaz, who has turned Lanvin into one of the hottest fashion brands around.

Then there is Vittorio Radice, ceo of Italy’s La Rinascente Srl chain, who is working on a long-term strategy to reposition the business. Earlier in his career, Radice transformed Selfridges and Co. into an innovative “house of brands” that aligned the store with the worlds of architecture, design, entertainment and fashion.

Among the other speakers scheduled are:
• William L. McComb, ceo of Liz Claiborne Inc., who has been dramatically restructuring the business.
• Josie Natori, a legend in lingerie with a rare blend of fashion and business acumen. Lately, she’s been broadening her business into new merchandise arenas.
• Roger N. Farah, president and chief operating officer of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., and one of the industry’s most respected leaders.
• Glen T. Senk, ceo of Urban Outfitters Inc. who catapulted the Anthropologie division into strong growth and is considered one of the nation’s most creative merchants.
• Patrizio di Marco, president and ceo of Bottega Veneta who in January will shift to Gucci in the same capacity, as part of an executive realignment at the parent Gucci Group.
• Angela Ahrendts, ceo of Burberry Group plc, one of the world’s most recognized brands.
• Matthew E. Rubel, chairman, ceo and president of Collective Brands Inc., who led the firm’s acquisition of Stride Rite and refocused Payless ShoeSource into a customer-centric chain.
Other speakers include Natalie Massenet, founder and chairman of Net-a-porter.com; Alla Verber, vice president of Mercury Distribution SA; Wendy Liebmann, founder and ceo of WSL Strategic Retail; Susan S. Hart, co-leader of the retail, apparel and luxury goods practice at Spencer Stuart, and Josh Bekenstein, managing director of Bain Capital LLC.

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