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Talbots Names Team to Direct Turnaround

The troika includes appointment of Mike Archbold as ceo and two veterans of the women's specialty apparel chain.

Outside the Talbots store.

Talbots has a new executive team to go along with its new owner — both of which hope to turn the specialty retailer around.

Michael Archbold is the new chief executive officer and chief financial officer, effective immediately. Archbold is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience, holding c-level positions. He was most recently president and chief operating officer of The Vitamin Shoppe. Prior posts include a stint as cfo and chief administrative officer of Saks Inc.

In addition to Archbold, Lizanne Kindler was named president. Kindler, who joined Talbots in 2008 and left in 2010, was most recently executive vice president for product development at Kohl’s Corp. She also had a stint on the merchandising team at Ann Inc. before her first tour of duty at Talbots.

The final new member of Talbots’ troika is Michele Mandell, who has been named chief operating officer. Mandell, who retired from Talbots in 2009, is a 26-year veteran of the retailer. Her last position at Talbots was executive vice president of stores. Sources familiar with the appointment said Mandell’s history with the company is expected to serve as the “foundation” to reenergize the struggling business as it seeks to bridge the soul of Talbots with a modern vision to move forward.

Archbold said, “By restoring the company’s focus on Talbots’ classic styling, we will be able to reconnect with the company’s historical customer base. Lizanne, Michele and I look forward to working closely with the other members of the Talbots’ leadership team and the company’s more than 8,000 committed and hard-working associates to reestablish the brand as the category leader.”

Private equity firm Sycamore Partners closed on its acquisition of The Talbots Inc. on Friday, a transaction that also ended the tenure of former ceo Trudy F. Sullivan. The transaction was valued at $391 million, including net debt. Following the deal’s close, the common stock of Talbots was delisted from trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Stefan Kaluzny, managing director of Sycamore Partners, said Tuesday, “We are pleased to have completed this acquisition and are ready to deliver on the promise of executing on the significant potential inherent in Talbots, which remains a premier, storied brand.”

He added that the new team is made up of “all veteran retailers and, together, [they] have extensive financial, merchandising, product development, marketing and operational skills that will be invaluable as we move to better position Talbots for long-term, positive growth.”

According to sources, Kaluzny told Talbots employees about the new management team on Monday.

These sources also said Kaluzny on Monday sought to reassure employees of Sycamore’s belief and commitment in Talbots’ future.

According to one source, Kaluzny wrote in an e-mail to employees: “Talbots is a brand with 65 years of history and a great deal of potential. Together, we believe we can help the brand realize the potential and move forward on a path of positive growth.”

This source also said Kaluzny emphasized that the “collective focus will be on financial discipline, protecting the integrity of the Talbots brand and, most importantly, on our customers….”

Turning around the retailer won’t be an easy task.

For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 28, Talbots posted a loss of $53.3 million, or 77 cents a diluted share, compared with a loss of $2.8 million, or 4 cents, a year earlier. Revenues fell 1.1 percent to $289.4 million from $292.6 million. For the year, Talbots posted net losses of $111.9 million on sales of $1.14 billion.

One risk is that the core customer has already moved on and found other brands to meet her shopping and fashion needs. Getting her attention back will be that much more difficult amid all the marketing noise among the different distribution channels, including online.

The firm operates 516 Talbots stores in 46 states and Canada.

Talbots is Sycamore’s second deal. Its first deal, in November, was a 51 percent stake in Limited Brands Inc.’s sourcing division, Mast Global.

Sycamore now has more than $1 billion in capital under management.

The private equity firm is expected to remain on the prowl for more deals in the retail and fashion space.