By  on October 22, 2007

Brooks Brothers has a second-in-command to help the upscale chain grow and sustain its tradition. Diane Hamilton has joined the chain in the newly created position of president and chief operating officer, reporting to Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and chief executive officer.

Hamilton was a consultant for the last 15 years and, before that, a retail executive. Most of the time, retailers-turned-consultants remain consultants, and even Hamilton admitted she's somewhat surprised to once again be among the retail ranks rather than working for them. "I never thought I would come back over, but there is a good bunch at Brooks Bros. and it's probably the only company I would have considered," she said Friday. "It's a wonderful brand with history and great opportunities for high growth."

Hamilton said her transition won't be that difficult, explaining, "For the last three or four years, Brooks Bros. was a client. I am very familiar with the company. It seems like a natural transition."

At Brooks Bros., she's been tackling projects involving improving the supply chain, logistics and the planning and allocation functions to micro-merchandise the stores with the right styles, sizes and weight to suit different demographics and climates. She has also been involved in recent launches, such as the smaller store format called Brooks Bros. Country Club Collection for resort locations, Thom Browne's exclusive Black Fleece collection, and strategic planning for international growth.

As president and chief operating officer, she is responsible for the operations of stores and outlets, as well as finance, information technology, human resources and supply chain functions, including product development, sourcing, planning, allocation and logistics. Hence, she's still involved in many of the same areas she was tackling as a consultant. "I'm helping Claudio to execute his vision and realize the wonderful opportunities for this brand," Hamilton said.

Most recently, Hamilton worked at the Lighthouse Retail Group, a consulting firm that she cofounded. Earlier, she was managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Strategic Change Practice and held senior merchandising and operations positions with Marshalls as well as with May Department Stores Co. (now owned by Macy's Inc.) and Associated Dry Goods, which was absorbed by May. As a consultant, Hamilton was involved in developing retail concepts for L.L. Bean and J. Jill, and worked with Barnes & Noble and Staples.Brooks Bros. operates about 180 retail stores and outlets in the U.S. and, through a variety of different partnerships, has another 100 stores in Asia and Europe. Marks and Spencer Group plc sold the chain in 2001 for $225 million to Retail Brand Alliance, led by Del Vecchio, who has remade the Brooks Bros. merchandise and restored its suit-and-tie tradition and many of its iconic looks.

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