NEW YORK — The changes keep coming at Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises.
In another top management switch, the retailer said Tuesday that Sheri Wilson-Gray, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, has resigned effective Feb. 27.
Her exit raises questions about other possible departures from Saks and what other strategies, besides reorganizing marketing, SFAE’s new chief executive officer Fred Wilson and his team are developing. Last week, when Wilson announced that he hired Andrew Jennings from Holt Renfrew in Canada as Saks Fifth Avenue’s new president and chief merchandising officer, Wilson told WWD, “I am looking at the entire organization from soup to nuts, A to Z.”
Jennings is likely to review the merchant team on board. Saks Fifth Avenue operates with five general merchandisers. They are Joseph Boitano, designer and home; Jennifer DeWinter, handbags, accessories, shoes, jewelry, intimate apparel; Cody Kondo, men’s wear; William Lynch, women’s ready-to-wear, including bridge, contemporary and special sizes, and Deborah Walters, cosmetics. At Holt Renfrew, Jennings was president and managing director.
Wilson-Gray held broad responsibilities, with several functions reporting to her, including advertising, direct mail, customer relationship and loyalty programs, production of advertising and direct-mail pieces, data base marketing, public relations, special events and fashion merchandising.
“She resigned some time ago and was gracious enough to stay on for enough time to allow us to restructure marketing,” said Wilson on Tuesday. “This was Sheri’s decision.”
In the new marketing setup, Wilson-Gray’s duties will be distributed between two executives. One of them is Simon Property Group’s Terron Schaefer, a veteran of the retail and advertising industries known for his flair and initiative. Schaefer will have the title of senior vice president of marketing and will report toJennings. Jennings reports to Wilson.
The other key marketing executive is Rob Rosenblatt, senior vice president of customer relationship management and direct marketing, who continues in that position but will report directly to Jennings. Before, Rosenblatt reported to Wilson-Gray.
Wilson added that, “Terry is a very creative guy and Rob is extraordinarily talented on the customer relations and direct side. This is a great team, reporting to Andrew Jennings.”“It’s almost like marketing now has a creative half and an analytical half,” said one retail source.
Since last September, Schaefer has been working at Simon Property as worldwide creative director with responsibility for bolstering the real estate firm’s development, leasing, management and marketing efforts. Before Simon, he co-founded style365.com, an online directory for upscale consumers. Earlier, he was senior vice president of marketing, worldwide retail, at Warner Bros., where he launched co-branding efforts that included ventures with Todd Oldham, Mossimo, Robert Lee Morris and Joe Boxer. He’s also served in posts at Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s West, Filene’s, Harrods and the former Galerias Preciados in Spain.
Wilson-Gray, a 12-year veteran of Saks, is well known in the fashion and publishing circles, being in charge of media buys, among other areas, and a front-row regular at the fashion shows in New York and Europe. She does not yet have a new job.
“Fred Wilson is moving quick to make some real differences, though he hasn’t articulated yet what direction he is going in. That takes some time,” said the source.
Wilson said Tuesday that the time may be near. “We are in the process of putting together a very clear definition of what we want Saks to be. We are in the final stages of that.” He added that it should be complete by the end of March.
Wilson stressed that the redefinition of Saks is “the work of Fred Wilson and the Saks Fifth Avenue team,” rather than a collective vision constructed by Saks Fifth Avenue and the corporate parent Saks Inc. He also said that the marketing initiatives will change as a result of that re-definition.
Key players at Saks Inc. are Steve Sadove, Saks Inc. vice chairman, and Brad Martin, Saks Inc. chairman and chief executive officer. Ron Frasch, the former chairman and ceo of Bergdorf Goodman, was also recently hired to develop Saks private brand programs and overseas opportunities, but he reports to Saks Inc. He has yet to be given a title.
Wilson-Gray is credited with the launch of Saks First Loyalty program in 1992, which was revamped in 1994, and still drives significant company revenues — 30 percent of Saks Fifth Avenue full-line stores sales and over 65 percent of all proprietary card volume.Among her accomplishments at Saks, her longest career stint, were the launch of advertising campaigns, spearheading the building of a customer data warehouse, and laying the groundwork for customer relationship management, which has been an initiative at Saks since last fall.
“It’s time for me to leave,” Wilson-Gray said. “I worked at Saks for twice as long as anywhere else.”
She sounded confident about getting a new job soon, based on her experience. “The idea of being close to customers and customer information [is important] to many enterprises. Retail has so much information about the customers. I think that if you have superior knowledge, that creates a competitive advantage.” She also said that she believed that some of the marketing programs developed for Saks Fifth Avenue could be applicable to the Saks Inc. department store group operating under such names as Proffitts and McRae’s.
Wilson-Gray joined Saks in 1991 as vice president of marketing and advertising and was promoted several times. She has been serving in her current spot since 2000. Before Saks, she was with Bijoux Givenchy, Monet, Chesebrough-Pond’s, International Playtex and Procter & Gamble, where she started her career working on the Crest and Prell accounts.
Last October, Wilson-Gray led the formation ofa customer relationship management division at Saks Fifth Avenue, which is when Rosenblatt was recruited. The store also signed Teradata as its provider of support systems for customer relationship management, commonly called CRM.
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