BERLIN — Ending a long search and weeks of speculation, Eva-Lotta Sjöstedt has been named chief executive officer of the Karstadt department store chain, effective Feb. 24.
Sjöstedt, who was previously deputy global vice president of the Ikea Group, succeeds Andrew Jennings, who is vacating the ceo post at the German retailer when his contract expires at the end of the year.
The 47-year-old Swedish manager began her career as a fashion designer and then buyer for various retailers in Asia. She has held several top management positions at Ikea, both at company headquarters and in Japan and Holland, and is considered to have key turnaround experience in highly competitive markets.
Such experience, industry observers say, is more than crucial in her new post. Karstadt has been involved in a bumpy turnaround process since the department store group filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Investor Nicolas Berggruen acquired the troubled chain in 2010 and, as Stephan Fanderl, chairman of the Karstadt board, acknowledged Wednesday, “In a difficult retail environment, we’ve not had an easy year.”
Sjöstedt said the group’s goal must be to find new ways of fulfilling the future wishes and demands of its customers, building on the group’s tradition, experience and accomplishments to date. Calling upon the support of the 83-door chain’s employees, she said, “We must quickly make Karstadt profitable.”
In September, Berggruen sold a 75.1 percent stake in the group’s three premium houses — KaDeWe in Berlin, Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Öberpollinger in Munich — as well as the 28 Karstadt Sports stores to the group’s biggest landlord, the Austrian Signa Group. Signa, in turn, has sold half of that stake to the Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz.
Reports suggest that Signa, which already owns the physical real estate of KaDeWe and 16 other Karstadt doors, is poised to take over another five Karstadt sites from the investor group Highstreet. The reports also say Highstreet plans to sell another 20 Karstadt store properties by the end of the year.
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