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The Next Phase for BBW

NEW YORK — Bath & Body Works is expected, for now, to stick to the course set by its longtime president and chief executive officer Beth Pritchard, who resigned earlier this week.<br><br>As reported, Ken Stevens, who joined the 1,600-store chain...

NEW YORK — Bath & Body Works is expected, for now, to stick to the course set by its longtime president and chief executive officer Beth Pritchard, who resigned earlier this week.

As reported, Ken Stevens, who joined the 1,600-store chain in February 2002 as executive vice president and chief operating officer, has been named president.

Pritchard, who helped redefine the bath-and-body category by turning the chore of bathing into an act of self-indulgence with the creation of scented soaps and lotions, said in a release: “The business is at a point in its evolution where I am comfortable stepping aside to pursue some of my other interests.” She could not be reached for further comment.

Over the past year, BBW has set out on a course to improve its product formulations as seen in its new Aromatherapy collection and Blue Spa line, while becoming synonymous with health and well-being.

Richard Jaffe, an analyst with UBS Warburg, wrote in a research note: “We do not see a disruption to the business as the merchant team is intact and much of the merchandise flow from 2003 is already in place.” He noted that Pritchard’s departure “came as no surprise.”

Over the course of 10 years, Pritchard built BBW into a $2 billion business. However, in 2001, the company suffered its first decline with a drop-off of 11 percent, followed by a 2 percent slide last year.

Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a consulting group, noted: “There are certainly plenty of companies that have made business transitions.” However, she continued, “there is a whole process that needs to be undertaken to help bring customers along. I think they are going in the right direction. Although they are trying to do a lot of things at once, I think that is one of the challenges.”

Stevens brings a wide experience range to the job. Before joining BBW, he had been president and chief operating officer of InChord, an advertising and marketing firm. He also had served as chairman and ceo of Bank One Retail Group, overseeing retail banking operations.