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NEW YORK — Paul Blum has been named chief executive officer of Juicy Couture.
The post had been vacant since the departure of Edgar Huber in February 2011.
Blum previously was ceo of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., which he rejoined in March 2011 as vice chairman and was named ceo two months later. He returned to Cole after five years as ceo of David Yurman. Blum earlier spent 15 years at Cole in various roles, including president and chief operating officer.
At Juicy, Blum reports to William L. McComb, chief executive officer of Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc., parent company of Juicy Couture. LeAnn Nealz, president and chief creative officer of Juicy, will report to Blum.
“Paul’s experience running and building lifestyle brands is a perfect match for the ceo role at Juicy Couture. His multichannel background, his passion for digital marketing and sales, and his experience in leading a creatively driven business are just what we were looking for. He is an outstanding leader and collaborator,” said McComb. Blum has a “fantastic rapport with designers, and has an almost contagious compassion for Juicy,” added McComb.
Blum is known to be product-obsessed. When he returned to Cole in 2011, he made quick moves to reorganize the company, instill an entrepreneurial spirit in his team and manage expenses.
“The Juicy Couture brand has such a promising future,” said Blum. “I’ve watched the brand change in recent seasons, and I believe it has the ability to scale globally, and through multiple channels, to meaningful heights. I am passionate about its digital presence, its capability to expand in accessories, and the relatively unharnessed global equity.”
McComb told WWD that Blum’s first priorities will be to invigorate Juicy’s outlet business; to continue to diversify the assortment of merchandise, and the continued acceleration of its global business. Juicy currently has a substantial business in the Middle East and a partnership with Imaginex Group in Southeast Asia and China, with 90 points of distribution “which is growing at double digits right now.” He also said there’s more expansion to be done in South and Central America.
Juicy, which was wildly successful in the late Nineties and early Aughts and fell on hard times, has been trying to reinvigorate the brand. Juicy is currently in the midst of a turnaround situation, which McComb said “is halfway there.”
“We’ll see improvements every quarter. There’s a big emphasis on the back half of 2013,” said McComb.
For the third quarter ended Sept. 29, Juicy posted an adjusted operating loss of $5 million as sales declined 5.5 percent to $130 million. Comparable-store sales were flat. Juicy stores were remodelled in August, but full-price sell-throughs decreased. The brand is now working to lower its pricing and, beginning for next fall, plans to re-focus on dresses, knit tops and denim as the key fashion categories.
McComb said U.S. retail expansion isn’t a priority at this point, at least not for the next 18 months. “We’re building back the store volume we got. We have great locations and we’ve been ‘re-couturing’ the stores,” he said.
Juicy’s wholesale business currently “is very small” — in the low single digits — and although Fifth & Pacific cares about the channel, Juicy is “very much a vertical company,” said McComb.
“We will make an impact in wholesale in 2014,” he said.
Asked whether improving the quality of the product will be a priority for Blum, McComb said, “There’s less of a call for that. LeAnn has dramatically changed the quality of the product.”
He noted that social media remains a key initiative for the brand. Juicy’s e-commerce channel has had “high double-digit growth” this year, said McComb.
Susan Hart, who leads Spencer Stuart’s global retail, apparel and luxury goods practice, handled the search.