Robert T. Wallstrom has been named president and chief executive officer of Vera Bradley Inc.
Wallstrom, whose appointment is effective Nov. 11, succeeds Michael C. Ray, who previously said he is retiring as ceo.
Wallstrom was most recently president of Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off 5th division. Before that, he was group senior vice president and general manager of Saks’ flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York from 2002 to 2007. During his tenure at Saks, he helped grow annual sales from $450 million to more than $600 million and developed the eighth-floor shoe store. Before joining Saks, Wallstrom held a variety of positions at Macy’s Inc. from 1987 to 1995.
Robert J. Hall, Vera Bradley’s chairman, said Wallstrom “has a proven track record developing and successfully executing strategic growth plans. He has a deep background in brand positioning, product development and planning and allocation, and we believe he has the right skills and expertise to lead our company into the future.”
Wallstrom, who said his move to Vera Bradley was not connected to Hudson’s Bay Co.’s acquisition of Saks Inc., said he was intrigued by the accessories brand because it “has one of the strongest affinities in the handbag market” between brand and consumer. “It has great customer engagement,” Wallstrom added.
What will be critical going forward is making sure that the vision for the brand is clear both internally within the company and with the customer, as well as with shareholders. Wallstrom said he sees the same strong internal culture at Vera Bradley as he saw at Saks, noting, “At the end of the day, the brand is only as strong as the people behind it.”
For Wallstrom, the company has an opportunity to enhance its distribution in company-owned stores and in e-commerce, as well as in wholesale accounts both here in the U.S. and overseas, where it has a presence just in Japan currently.
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