By  on May 25, 2007

Brown Shoe Co. Inc. has named Sheri Wilson-Gray to the post of senior vice president and chief marketing officer, a newly created role.

Wilson-Gray joins Brown Shoe June 4. She is currently executive vice president for marketing at Island Global Yachting, where she has been since 2005. Before Island Global, Wilson-Gray was executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Saks Fifth Avenue. She began her retailing career at Federated Department Stores Inc., and has held marketing positions at various firms including Victoria Creations Inc., Monet and Chesebrough-Pond's Inc.

"Sheri has a fantastic background to complement our business model, which is 65 percent retail and 35 percent wholesale. We operate at almost every level of distribution, from Saks to Bloomingdale's to Wal-Mart," said Diane Sullivan, president and chief operating officer of Brown Shoe, in a telephone interview.

Sullivan said the company has never had a chief marketing officer, although it has "terrific people running our retail and wholesale businesses. Sheri's goal is to continue to work with the great talent we have, but to really elevate the marketing game for the company."

Sullivan said the newly created position is viewed as a leadership role in the organization. "We wanted someone who is a real advocate for consumers of our brands, as well as the programs and strategies we need to put in place to build our brands. It involves strategies, consumer research, licensing programs and all public relations for our company," the president said.

In describing the role, Sullivan emphasized that Wilson-Gray will also be partnering with the company's product development teams for both the retail and wholesale operations. The company also has a direct-to-consumer business.

While Sullivan didn't rule out the possibility that the new positioning and strategic initiatives Wilson-Gray will implement could also help better position the company for future acquisitions, she emphasized that the company's current objective is to focus on organic growth first, analyzing how to develop existing brands and perhaps expand internationally.

Wilson-Gray will be based primarily in St. Louis at company headquarters, and then split the balance of her time at company offices in New York and Madison, Wis.

Separately, the company on Thursday posted first-quarter results in which earnings dropped to $9.6 million, or 22 cents a diluted share, from $10 million, or 23 cents, a year ago. Despite the decline in profits, the company's diluted earnings per share still exceeded guidance by 3 cents. Sales were off by 1.6 percent to $566.3 million from $575.5 million.

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