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HauteLook founder Adam Bernhard is stepping down as chief executive officer of the flash-sale Web site.
This story first appeared in the October 4, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“This is entirely his decision,” Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct, told WWD. “Adam started the business six years ago, and he has done a terrific job, from the start-up phase to raising money and all the way through to the exit strategy.” Nordstrom Inc. purchased HauteLook in February 2011 in a stock deal valued at $270 million.
Nordstrom said the site will now be run by its president, Terry Boyle, who joined HauteLook as chief operating officer and chief financial officer in 2008 and has been instrumental in growing the business. Boyle will report to Jamie Nordstrom. No ceo will be named.
Explaining Bernhard’s reason for leaving, Nordstrom said, “Adam is an entrepreneur who likes building stuff.” But he also said that Bernhard would not start up anything in the near future. “He is still on our team” as an adviser, Nordstrom said. “Although he will not be in the office every single day, he is still going to be very involved in working with sourcing great product for flash-sale events, and plotting our calendar around flash events. He’s sticking around. We have lots of irons in the fire.”
Nordstrom said Bernhard helped take the business from just over four million members to more than 14 million while achieving “impressive” sales growth. “Even after selling the business to us, his commitment to scaling the business and bringing it to profitability never wavered. Adam and his team have more than held up their end of the bargain.”
“It has been an unbelievable journey to grow HauteLook from a four-person start-up into the thriving division of Nordstrom that it is today,” said Bernhard. “Although I’m eager for the new opportunities to come, HauteLook will always be my pride and joy.”
Nordstrom continues to search for ways to make HauteLook more engaging and to integrate it into other divisions so they support each other. For example, HauteLook and the Nordstrom Rack outlets move merchandise back and forth from each other. The merchant teams from both divisions cooperate regularly, typically going on market appointments together.
In addition, Nordstrom migrates customers from one channel to the next so, for example, the company will encourage those shopping HauteLook to also visit Nordstrom stores, nordstrom.com or Rack locations. A few days ago, Nordstrom started a pilot program in one section in California where items bought on HauteLook can be returned at Rack outlets. “We will very likely be expanding that to all stores,” said Nordstrom. Years ago, Nordstrom made it easy for items purchased on nordstrom.com to be returned at a Nordstrom store.
Nordstrom said the flash-sale business is “really hard” and has seen lots of talent turnover. “You’ve got to raise a lot of money. There are lots of twists and turns. Adam is kind of the only one who got through the whole thing. It’s a great story.”
While some flash-sale sites aren’t as hot as they once were, “There is absolutely a role for flash sales, particularly in the off-price sector. I don’t think it’s ever going away,” said Nordstrom.
He added that HauteLook, which each day at 8 a.m. Pacific time stages new sales events in fashion, accessories, kids, beauty, toys and home decor at up to 75 percent off, is performing well, growing and profitable. “With the team Adam has built and the platform we have there now, we are in a really good place,” Nordstrom said.