Jane Elfers drives the turnaround at Lord & Taylor.
She's been the medicine woman reviving one of retailing's last standing grande dames.
"It has always been very important to me personally that Lord & Taylor stays America's oldest department store under my watch," Jane Elfers, Lord & Taylor's president and chief executive officer, said.
While NRDC Equity Partners has been injecting capital to remerchandise and remarket the 181-year-old chain and redevelop its real estate, Lord & Taylor owes its survival as much to Elfers, a determined, no-nonsense merchant.
She became the retailer's ceo in May 2000 at age 39 and saw the potential for a revival long before NRDC bought the $1.4 billion chain in 2006 for $1.2 billion from Macy's, which inherited the business through its May Department Stores acquisition two and a half years ago.
Elfers kept the chain going through years of corporate neglect at May and enough image and fashion issues to put any regional retailer out of business. It was so off the fashion map that many New Yorkers would need to think twice to recall the cross streets of Lord & Taylor's Fifth Avenue flagship, while Macy's and Bloomingdale's flagship locations were always indelibly ingrained in consumers' minds.
Then there was the ownership change, during which Elfers led the sale process to NRDC, and had to retain top management. Yet even before, she triggered a huge downsizing involving closing 32 stores over a few years and a massive remerchandising that is ongoing.
Now with the business stabilized, management intact, and some new talent on board in creative and operational areas, Elfers and NRDC are anxious to put the store back on the map, and in a place where shoppers know exactly where the business stands. "We're ready for the next 181 years," Elfers said.