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Retail Veteran Jane Elfers Named CEO of Children’s Place

Jane Elfers, the former president and ceo of Lord & Taylor, will take the reins Jan. 4 at Children's Place.

With a new leader coming on board, The Children’s Place is getting ready to grow again and forget the recent turbulence.

This story first appeared in the December 14, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“There is an opportunity to move the merchandise forward within the value sector,” Jane Elfers, the chain’s next president and chief executive, told WWD. “The Children’s Place is a value player with great price points.”

On Friday, the public company revealed Elfers’ appointment, confirming a WWD report earlier in the week. Regarded as a seasoned merchant, the former president and ceo of Lord & Taylor takes the reins Jan. 4, succeeding interim ceo Chuck Crovitz, who is more regarded as an operations executive. Crovitz will remain on the board and Elfers becomes a member of the board.

In addition to merchandise changes, Elfers cited the potential to expand the chain to new markets. The $1.6 billion Children’s Place focuses on newborns to 12-year-olds and already has wide distribution through mall and street locations with 950 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Elfers said an expansion would target value centers.

Beefing up the brand’s Web site with a broader selection of products and services and providing an enhanced customer experience is also a priority, she said.

“Jane is a terrific merchant,” said Kirk Palmer of the executive search firm bearing his name. “Her skill set is perfect for Children’s Place. She will assess the business, the talent across the organization and where there are market opportunities, and then craft a plan. Elfers will develop a culture in a business that has experienced turmoil.”

The last permanent ceo was Ezra Dabah, founder of The Children’s Place, who was ousted in 2007 and this year lost a proxy battle over a new slate of board members and stepped down from the board. Last year, the company exited its Disney Store operation to focus on the core Children’s Place.

“Jane is the ideal leader to take The Children’s Place to the next level as the company seeks to further expand its market share and enhance shareholder value,” said Norman Matthews, chairman. He added: “The board greatly appreciates Chuck’s willingness to step in as interim ceo during what has been a very difficult time in the company’s history.”

Elfers, 48, has 25 years’ experience in retailing, mostly with Lord & Taylor and the former May Department Stores. She ran L&T for nine years until last year. During her tenure there, she initiated some dramatic strategies, including closing many underperforming stores and downsizing the once national chain into a more viable regional operation, primarily in the Northeast. She also elevated the merchandise mix from its moderate orientation to better-bridge price points and rebranded the company through new marketing. Since her departure from L&T, the team there has focused more on moderate merchandise given the economic downturn. Elfers began her retail career at Macy’s where she rose to buyer.