Some of fashion’s biggest names are steering into what looks like more choppy waters this year without a permanent captain — searching for new chief executive officers and some new direction.
- VF Corp., parent to Supreme, The North Face, Vans and more, is looking to replace Steve Rendle, who retired “by mutual agreement with the board” last month.
- Kohl’s Corp. is filling the void left by Michelle Gass, who in November stepped away to work under and ultimately succeed Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh.
- Gap Inc. has been on the hunt for a successor for Sonia Syngal since July.
- The RealReal has been led by co-interim CEOs since June, when founder Julie Wainwright stepped down abruptly.
Under Armour Inc. was set to be part of that list until naming Marriott president Stephanie Linnartz as its next CEO just before Christmas.
There’s always some C-suite churn in fashion as companies make course corrections and CEOs plot their careers and retirements. But the executive exodus last year speaks to the dramatic changes in the market.
The pandemic stop and start, the supply chain turmoil and finally ultra-high inflation and the very real threat of recession have made everything harder.
In some cases the crowd of interim CEOs might be able to use their perch to make quick changes to right the ship before handing over control.
At Kohl’s, for instance, Burlington veteran Tom Kingsbury is leading as interim CEO and is expected to move to get and keep the company’s inventory in line. And VF, which is being run by lead independent director and former Clorox CEO Benno Dorer, is rumored to be considering the sale of Jansport, potentially giving it some more breathing room as it refinances debt and turns around Vans.
But soon decisions are going to have to be made.
And just who is running the show might make all the difference in the world, especially since new CEOs occasionally come in looking to lead big-time transformations with big-time risk.
CEO searches are also harder today since the modern corporate chief has to be a multitasker. It is no longer enough to be good at retail or good at e-commerce, but brands of all stripes need to be good at both and figure out how to bring the two sides of the business together with the right balance.
The trick this year will be getting it all right in the midst of a consumer slowdown, at best, and possibly a severe recession.