Steve Birkhold Named Bebe Stores CEO

Founder Manny Mashouf shifts to non-executive chairman.

The torch has been passed at Bebe Stores Inc.

This story first appeared in the January 4, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Steve Birkhold, former chief executive officer at Lacoste North America and Diesel USA, has been named ceo. He takes over the top job from Manny Mashouf, founder, chairman and ceo, who will become non-executive chairman. The 250-door chain said it was looking for a new leader in October.

“We are eager to continue our journey toward becoming a global, omnichannel company,” Mashouf said. “Steve will help us develop and execute strategies to reach that goal by growing our brand, expanding our distribution channels and evolving our customer experience.”

Birkhold became head of Lacoste North America in 2010 and, in addition to his time at Diesel, worked at VF Corp. and May Department Stores Co. earlier in his career.

“I look forward to positioning Bebe for the dynamic changes taking place in our industry — and for the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead for the company,” Birkhold said. “I view my role as helping to keep the brand true to its heritage of style and sensuality, keeping relevant to both existing and potential new consumers….”

Birkhold clearly has his work cut out for him.

Bebe said sales in its fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 29 dropped 11.7 percent to $124.6 million. Comparable-store sales fell 10.5 percent, driven by a 15 percent decline in comp-store traffic.

The retailer said its average inventory per square foot at the end of the quarter was up 27.5 percent versus a year earlier. This increase reflects the shift New Year’s Eve into fiscal January, efforts to elevate the retailer’s product offerings, more spring receipts and initiatives to localize assortments.

Bebe said its second-quarter adjusted loss would fall at or below the lower end of its previous guidance of 1 cent a share.

Shares of the firm fell 5.5 percent to $3.78.

Also on Thursday, Devanlay named Francis Pierrel ceo of its U.S. division to succeed Birkhold. Pierrel was previously ceo of Devanlay France but has extensive knowledge of the U.S. market, having spent eight years as vice president of retail for Diesel USA Inc.

He previously worked at Diesel’s Italian headquarters, having begun his career at Bruce Field and Esprit de Corp. in France, Devanlay said.