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Ann Watson Out at Bendel’s

Henri Bendel's fashion director has left her post after three years with the retailer.

Henri Bendel’s vice president and fashion director, Ann Watson, has left her post after three years with the retailer.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While she has yet to reveal what she will do next, Watson said in an e-mail: “After three great years of reinventing retail as a branded experience, I am moving on to new opportunities. I feel certain the Henri Bendel branded stores will be a great success.”

Known for her eye for finding new talent, Watson played an integral role in nurturing the businesses of several young designer labels. Before joining Bendel’s, she was senior director of retail for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue and in merchandising at Neiman Marcus.

It was widely speculated that Watson would leave Bendel’s when the Columbus, Ohio-based firm, owned by Limited Brands, unveiled its new accessories-only strategy earlier this month. A spokeswoman at the store would not comment on Watson’s departure, and Watson could not be reached for further comment.

In other company news, Dina Battipaglia has been named senior vice president of merchandising. In her new role, Battipaglia will focus on increasing the Henri Bendel accessories collection, which includes handbags, wallets, key fobs and jewelry.

Battipaglia has spent more than 20 years with Liz Claiborne Inc.’s accessories division, most recently as interim president for Kate Spade. In her tenure at Claiborne, she led several accessories businesses for brands including Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand, Monet and Kenneth Cole. She will be based in New York and report to Ed Bucciarelli, president and chief executive officer at Henri Bendel.

Under the retailer’s new strategy, the Fifth Avenue flagship will be downsized as Bendel’s concentrates on its most profitable areas while getting out of apparel. The concept will be rolled out to shopping malls, where units will offer only Bendel’s branded merchandise. Six stores will open this year, joining the existing four.