LOS ANGELES — John D. Goodman has moved from the boardroom to the chief executive officer’s office at The Wet Seal Inc.
Goodman, an apparel industry veteran who was previously executive vice president, chief apparel and home officer at Sears Holdings Corp. and ceo of Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., fills the vacancy that was created when Susan McGalla was fired in July after 16 months on the job. Goodman, who has signed a contract to keep him in the ceo post through 2016, initially joined the Foothills Ranch, Calif.-based retailer as a board member in September.
“I’ve been watching Wet Seal for years. It has been a pioneer in fast fashion. I’ve spent a lot of time since September with the new board as well as the team here, and I’m very excited about the opportunity and the ability to turn this business around,” said Goodman, who added he is charged with “really focusing on the right product with the right price and the right promotion and being able to affect that quickly.”
Lynda Davey, Wet Seal’s chairman, said, “We found John’s energy and passion for the fashion industry and, in particular, his understanding of the junior customer perfectly aligned with the attributes we were seeking in a chief executive officer. He is a team builder and has a proven record of success as a ceo, and expertise in the teen fashion apparel specialty business. As an active Wet Seal director, John has already developed a strong working relationship with the executive team. We feel certain that this will expedite the improvement in operating performance and the prospects for profitable growth.”
Goodman will certainly be asked to provide some stability at Wet Seal. The retailer has been through a turbulent period that saw activist investor The Clinton Group adding a slate of four directors, the resignation of chief merchandising officer Harriet Sustarsic, an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission into discrimination and persistent same-store sales drops.
“It has obviously been a difficult year for Wet Seal, and we have shown improvement,” said Goodman. “My goal is to continue to build on that and make sure the business has a positive trajectory as soon as possible.”
In the third quarter, Wet Seal’s sales were $135.5 million, compared to $152.1 million for the same quarter the year before. It swung to an operating loss of $24.8 million from operating income of $6.1 million, and same-store sales declined 13.5 percent. In November and December, Wet Seal recorded same-store sales dips of 5.4 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively.
Despite heavy competition in the fast-fashion segment from the likes of Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Topshop and more, Goodman is confident that Wet Seal can draw customers. But he indicated the retailer must seek to better understand its demographic and how to suit it best. “I feel like we can carve out a niche. There is a place for Wet Seal in this space,” said Goodman.
As of Dec. 29, Wet Seal operated 555 stores in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including 475 Wet Seal stores and 80 Arden B. stores.