By  on February 12, 2007

Arnold B. Zetcher, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Talbots Inc., is retiring after 20 years leading the company.

Zetcher, 66, plans to continue as ceo of the retailer through the end of this fiscal year and as chairman through March 2008, in accordance with his contract. However, he said he could vacate the ceo slot sooner if a search is completed for his successor. Talbots has appointed a search committee and has hired the Heidrick & Struggles executive search firm. Zetcher said candidates from inside and outside the company will be considered.

Zetcher has had one the industry's longest and smoothest runs at the helm of a major retail operation. He was hired as president in 1987, quickly rising to president and ceo the next year, and in 2000 adding the title of chairman.

There were, however, a couple of off seasons — the worst in 1997 when the fashion went astray and sales were way off, though the company still came in with a profit. In the last quarter, Talbots posted slightly negative comp-store sales.

Overall, Zetcher will be leaving on a positive note, including two decades of expansion, taking the company public, acquiring J. Jill last year and developing new formats for special sizes.

For complete coverage see tomorrow's issue of WWD.

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