In a surprising high-level reorganization, the Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay Co. is expected to soon unveil new roles for Bonnie Brooks and Liz Rodbell that will take effect at the beginning of 2014.
Sources said Brooks, currently president of the Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor divisions, will become vice chairman of the parent Hudson’s Bay Co. The gregarious Brooks has been very visible in the fashion markets and in the stores, but will be assuming a more strategic, lower-profile advisory role working with chief executive officer Richard Baker. “She’ll be working closer with Richard on long-term growth strategies,” said one source.
Rodbell is said to be stepping up from executive vice president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor to president of the two chains, thereby deepening her involvement in the day-to-day operations. She continues as chief merchant, overseeing the buying teams, and will add marketing, e-commerce and planning, which have been reporting to Brooks. In addition, she will report to Baker, instead of Brooks.
HBC officials declined comment on the changes. Speculation on the reasons for the appointments ranged from HBC’s desire to hang onto its top executives by reassigning them and locking them into new contracts, to Brooks, at 60, wanting to take it easier. There was also speculation that Brooks hasn’t been happy in her current role, triggering the reassignment. But a source close to the situation stated flatly, “That is not true,” adding Brooks joined HBC in 2008 planning to stay five years.
Sometimes in retailing when a vice chairman position is created, it’s actually a prelude for retirement, or a holding slot for some future job.
Brooks and Rodbell are highly regarded veteran retail executives and are key to pumping up productivity and launching new formats at Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor. Hudson’s Bay is busy renovating stores, rolling out Topshops and omnichannel initiatives, and launching Kleinfeld’s bridal in Canada, while Lord & Taylor has begun opening stores again and renovating its Fifth Avenue flagship. RELATED STORY: Hudson's Bay Amps Up Spending for Growth >>
Since 2012, Brooks has been president of the $4 billion HBC, overseeing the merchandise, marketing and store operations of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay. As vice chairman, she will no longer oversee those areas. Chief operating officer Don Watros will pick up the store operations.
Before 2012, Brooks was president and ceo of just the Hudson’s Bay division. Earlier, she was president of the Lane Crawford Joyce Group based in Hong Kong, supervising four divisions in nine Asian countries — the Lane Crawford department stores, Joyce Boutiques, Pedder Specialty Group and the LCJG Distribution Co. Before Lane Crawford, Brooks was Holt Renfrew’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager. Those experiences helped her establish strong ties to designers and high-end vendors, which is partly why Baker wants Brooks around. Earlier, she served as editor in chief of Flare, Canada’s largest fashion and lifestyle magazine.
Rodbell has been executive vice president for Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor since February 2012. The 55-year-old Rodbell joined L&T in 1985 and rose to senior vice president and gmm in 1992, and executive vice president of merchandising in 2008.
HBC is considered a potential buyer for Saks Inc., which is up for sale, though there are no indications that the group has a leg up on other suitors or that a deal is close. Yet a Saks-HBC combination makes sense on a few levels. First, Baker likes Saks. He’s met with the retailer’s executives in previous years to discuss a possible takeover, and as a real estate executive turned retailer, he’s naturally interested in Saks’ properties, particularly the Fifth Avenue flagship, which is worth over $1 billion.
Second, it would be a good fit. Saks doesn’t compete with Hudson’s Bay and has a different clientele than Lord & Taylor. Also, Saks’ profitability rate would be likely to increase once it became part of HBC’s centralized portfolio of retail businesses and consolidated staff and back-office functions.
Neiman Marcus Inc. is also in play, with owners TPG and Warburg Pincus looking to either sell the luxury chain or take it public.
In the event of an HBC acquisition of Saks, Brooks and Rodbell would be much-needed helping hands, considering their experience.
HBC’s business this year has been uneven. In the quarter ended May 4, the company lost money on both a net and “normalized” net basis, which excludes restructuring, acquisitions and certain costs outside of day-to-day operations, though the company succeeded in narrowing the losses from last year. The 90-unit Hudson’s Bay division in Canada last quarter saw same-store sales grow 7.6 percent, while sales at the 48-unit Lord & Taylor in the U.S. declined 1.4 percent on a U.S.-dollar basis.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews