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Shulman Exits Filene’s Basement

Filene’s Basement president Mark Shulman has left the company in the aftermath of the chain’s acquisition by Syms Corp.

Filene’s Basement president Mark Shulman has left the company in the aftermath of the chain’s acquisition by Syms Corp.

The Secaucus, N.J.-based off-pricer, which acquired Filene’s Basement for $65 million in June, has been integrating the retailer’s back-office, buying, sourcing and distribution operations.

Filene’s Basement did not announce a new president. Syms Corp. president and chief executive officer Marcy Syms could not be reached for comment, but it is believed she has assumed Shulman’s responsibilities.

“I am absolutely ready to take some time off and do something else,” Shulman, whose long career has included stints as president and ceo of Ann Taylor and president of Henri Bendel, told WWD Wednesday. “Marcy and I had discussed a long time ago that I would stay awhile and see how things were working. We’ve got some very good merchants. The strategy is clear and well thought.”

Market sources said the company has a new co-branding strategy using both the Syms and Filene’s Basement nameplates at certain locations, including the Fairfield, Conn., and Norwood, Mass., units. At those sites, the Syms team handles the men’s, kids’ and men’s and women’s shoes businesses, and Filene’s Basement deals with all the women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and intimates. It’s an unusual strategy, though Filene’s Basement, which had been owned by Schottenstein Corp., has done some cobranding with another Schottenstein business, DSW shoes. Shulman would not comment on the strategy.

Although some off-pricers such as TJX Cos. and Ross Stores have been thriving, Boston-based Filene’s Basement filed for Chapter 11 protection on May 4 and was acquired by Syms on June 18. After the deal was announced, Marcy Syms characterized Shulman as a “knowledgeable merchant who has the trust of his buying staff” and added that she expected to retain most jobs.

Of the total $65 million Syms paid for the 23-unit Filene’s Basement, Vornado Realty Trust provided $16.8 million to terminate the Downtown Crossing lease with Filene’s Basement in Boston. Vornado supplied another $8.2 million to change the terms of the lease at the Union Square store in Manhattan. Syms and Filene’s Basement combined generate almost $600 million in annual sales.

Shulman ran Filene’s Basement for seven years. Previously, he was chief operating officer at Retail Brand Alliance, with responsibility for Brooks Brothers, as well as Casual Corner, which was liquidated. Before that, he held chief merchandising slots at Talbots, Stage Stores, Younkers and Aca Joe. He started his career at Bloomingdale’s, where he rose to divisional vice president and helped launch the store’s bridge business.

Shulman said the last several years had been particularly tough for him, given the business climate and the Filene’s Basement bankruptcy and ownership change.