NEW YORK--After a long attempt to turn around Marshalls, Warren D. Feldberg will resign as chairman and chief executive officer on June 30, becoming the fourth high-ranking executive to leave the ailing off-price chain since February. In announcing Feldberg's departure, the company said Thursday that a search for a successor has begun and that it will focus on experienced retail executives from outside the company. According to Harvey Rosenthal, president and chief operating officer of Melville Corp., parent of Marshalls, Feldberg's departure was "a mutual decision." Feldberg could not be reached for comment. He joined Marshalls in October 1991. Prior to that, he was president of Target Stores. The 484-store Marshalls reported same-store sales declines of 13 and 13.7 percent in May and April, respectively. Earlier this year, the off-pricer undertook a review of its business and identified "several strategies" aimed at improving performance. Those strategies have not yet been disclosed. Marshalls' problems reflect troubles throughout the off-price industry. Sales and profits have been under pressure at most major chains for the past year, including Filene's Basement and TJX Cos. Marshalls, the second largest Melville division, last year reported sales of $2.8 billion, an increase of 6.4 percent. Marshalls profits were not disclosed, but the company said they were below 1993 results. CVS, the drugstore chain, is Melville's largest division. In reporting May sales, Melville said, "the sales shortfall at Marshalls and the related markdowns" will cause second quarter earnings to be "somewhat less" than year-ago results. Rosenthal said, "Naturally, we're disappointed in Marshalls' performance in recent months." However, he said, the company "feels confident" it will be able to turn around quickly. As part of the effort, he said, Melville has assigned Jerald S. Politzer, a corporate executive vice president, to spend "more than half his time" at Marshalls, where he will overseemerchandising and marketing . Jerome R. Rossi continues as president and chief operating officer of Marshalls. Both Politzer and Rossi report to Rosenthal. Last month, Susan Weiner, senior vice president of marketing, and Jim Marcum, chief financial officer, left Marshalls for Pearle Vision Centers and Specialty Retailers, respectively. Harry Brown, executive vice president of merchandising, resigned in February to join Office Depot. Feldberg also is the second division head to resign from Melville this week. Ann Iverson, president of Kay-Bee Toys & Hobby Stores, was named chief executive of Laura Ashley Holdings PLC, as reported. Rosenthal said Marshalls has hired a number of new executives as replacements and now has "the nucleus of a very strong organization." He acknowledged that a couple of key positions must be filled but said Marshalls will "not skip a beat" during its search for a new ceo and other executives. "I think [suppliers] will begin to feel a new vitality about the whole Marshalls merchandising force very, very soon.," he said. Shares of Melville Corp. closed at 35 1/2 Thursday, unchanged, on the New York Stock Exchange.
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