NEW YORK — The high-flying, fast-growing Chico’s has placed one of its top consultants into a new executive slot to explore additional growth tracks.
On Friday, Charles L. Nesbit Jr., a former Sara Lee executive who has been working as a consultant to Chico’s since February, was named senior vice president of strategic planning and business development, foreshadowing further diversification for the specialty chain, possibly into different retail formats or products.
Nesbit will be responsible for managing the company’s strategic planning process, evaluating new business ventures and joint oversight of the Soma intimate apparel division with Chico’s chief merchandising officer Pat Kerstein. Nesbit will report to Scott A. Edmonds, Chico’s president and chief executive officer. Soma is being launched later this month.
“We need to take advantage of our brand momentum,” said Edmonds in an interview. “We don’t have footwear. We don’t have fragrances. There are a lot of categories we don’t have.” He declined to specify any other categories that could be launched.
He said the fact that Chico’s is looking to diversify doesn’t suggest any slowdown for the core Chico’s brand. “We are only in the early stages of growth with Chico’s. We only did $768 million last year, which is not much compared to Talbots or the Gap.”
Still, that was a big leap from the $531 million posted the year before.
Chico’s designs and sells private label casual-to-dressy clothing and accessories, and it draws a large audience of women in their 30s and older. The apparel tends to be somewhat looser-fitting to accommodate the middle-aged or older physique. Chico’s launched its first store in Sanibel, Fla., in 1983, went public on the Nasdaq exchange in 1993 with 75 stores and moved to the NYSE in 2001 when it had 259 stores.
Asked how big Chico’s could grow, Edmonds said, “We will let the market tell us how big the brand can grow. We have just established the brand.”
Creating freestanding Soma lingerie stores is necessary, because the Chico’s stores, which generate almost $900 in sales per square foot on average, don’t have enough space for a strong lingerie presentation. “We don’t have the square footage, so we decided to do a stand-alone,” Edmonds said.
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