By  on March 31, 2014

NEW YORK — Macy’s Inc. has given Jeffrey Gennette a bigger playing field.

The U.S.’ largest department store retailer on Monday promoted Gennette to president of the corporation, giving him the additional responsibility of overseeing its rapidly growing private label brands. Gennette, who has been seen as a rising star in the retail world, has served for the past five years as Macy’s chief merchandising officer.

He continues to report to Terry J. Lundgren, chairman and chief executive officer of the $28 billion Macy’s Inc. Lundgren is turning over the title of president to Gennette.

“It’s a very big deal,” Lundgren told WWD on Monday. “Jeff has had all of merchandising, all of marketing, all of,” reporting to him. “Now he will have the Macy’s Merchandising Group [MMG] reporting to him as well. It’s a big job, the second largest job in the company after me.”

MMG is the corporation’s private brands organization.

Asked if Gennette’s promotion reflected succession planning, the 62-year-old Lundgren replied: “This is giving an opportunity to one of the most creative and talented individuals in the retailing industry. That’s all we are stating and signaling.”

Lundgren suggested that he is not about to retire from Macy’s anytime soon. “I am having way too much fun,” he said.

The ceo called Gennette “an outstanding merchant, insightful strategist and strong leader,” adding, “As our president, with the additional responsibility for Macy’s private brands, Gennette will have a total view of Macy’s merchandise assortment and marketing strategy — both in stores and online — consistent with our omnichannel vision. Our exclusive private brands, which have provided a powerful competitive advantage for Macy’s, will continue to play a vitally important role.”

For several seasons, Macy’s private brand sales have been outpacing the overall business, and Gennette acknowledged that his biggest challenge with that part of his job is “to keep the momentum going. We have been winning for five years running.” Some key private brands include INC, Charter Club, Hotel Collection, Style & Co., Alfani and Bar III.

While Gennette has an omni perspective on the business, the rest of the merchant team remains channel specific. Asked if he would consider reorganizing responsibilities so merchants work across channels, as some retailers have begun to do, Gennette replied, “We are always looking at the future. Right now, we see management and buying-line talent in both channels.”

“We think the reason we have grown to be the 10th largest Internet company in America is because we have very talented people dedicated to the online business. We never want to make it store number 801,” Lundgren said, referring to Macy’s 800 stores. Lundgren said Macy’s no longer breaks out online sales from store sales because the channels support each other and each could play a part in a particular transaction. “If somebody walks into the store and spends 20 minutes with a sales associate and then buys online, is that an online sale or a store sale? If someone does all their research online and buys [the product] in the store, should it be recorded as a store sale or an online sale? It’s completely mixed up and merged, but we do know the online is getting bigger and bigger as a percent to the total,” he said.

While some see Gennette’s appointment as elevating his chances to one day run Macy’s, Lundgren was clear not to couch Gennette or other key executives as second-in-command. Other top officials include Peter Sachse, chief stores officer, and Karen Hoguet, chief financial officer.

Macy’s Inc. has recently seen some high-level departures, including Michael Gould, who in February stepped down as chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s. He was succeeded by Tony Spring, who has already been reshaping the team at Bloomingdale’s and identifying new areas for business that the upscale department store could tap. Spring reports to Lundgren.

Just last week, Macy’s disclosed that Stuart Goldblatt, executive vice president of men’s and children’s for private brands, retired after a 35-year career. Molly Langenstein, formerly executive vice president and general merchandise manager for the Millennial family of business, succeeded Goldblatt and Langenstein’s women’s apparel duties were assigned to Tim Baxter, who is executive vice president and gmm for ready-to-wear. Her kids duties were assigned to Richard Arnstein, who now serves as executive vice president and gmm for men’s and kids.

Gennette, 52, has been Macy’s chief merchandising officer since 2009. Previously, before Macy’s centralized its store divisions, he served as chairman and ceo of Macy’s West for about a year, and earlier was chairman and ceo of Macy’s Northwest in Seattle from December 2005 to February 2008. Before that, Gennette was executive vice president and director of stores for Macy’s Central in Atlanta and senior vice president and gmm at Macy’s West. He joined Macy’s West in 1983 as an executive trainee and held various merchant and store management positions in that division. He also once worked as a store manager for FAO Schwarz and director of stores for Broadway Stores.

“Macy’s has traditionally had merchants at the helm,” said retail analyst Walter Loeb. “The company differentiates through its merchandising creativity. I am very positive about this appointment. The company will continue as a merchandising organization which is the most important to the customer.”

Lundgren has been president of Macy’s Inc. since May 1997, ceo since February 2003 and chairman since January 2004. Most retailers are structured with a chairman and ceo, and another individual serving as president.

“I actually have had four titles,” Lundgren said. “Chairman, president, ceo and ‘chief customer officer.’ My sign on the door of my office says chief customer officer. My stationery I send notes out on says that too. That’s my most important title.”

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