Oscar and George Feldenkreis

The partial changing of the guard is official at Perry Ellis International Inc.

George Feldenkreis has been named executive chairman, while his son Oscar has been named chief executive officer and president. George Feldenkreis was the former ceo, while Oscar Feldenkreis was the former president and chief operating officer. The company said it is actively seeking a successor for the chief operating officer role. It is expected that the company will consider both outsiders and insiders as possible candidates, and let the board ultimately decide who will fill the spot.

The company made official what it said it would do last May after receiving pressure from activist investors for better corporate governance. Many companies recently have been splitting up the chairmanship and chief executive officer roles into two distinct positions, filled by two individuals instead of one.

The senior Feldenkreis founded the company 49 years ago and held the positions of chairman and ceo since 1993. In his role just as chairman, he will continue to work with strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, licensing and other areas of growth for the company. His son has been with the company since 1980, and was elected president and chief operating officer by the board since 1993. He added the title of vice chairman in 2005. During his tenure at the company, he has expanded the business beyond private-label distribution and in branded men’s and women’s apparel. The company now employs more than 1,900 people in the U.S., plus 700 overseas, with “nearly $1 billion in annual revenues.”

In a telephone interview, George Feldenkreis said, “This has been a very tough market, very challenging with a lot of macro events specific to the apparel industry and to the general population.”

The chairman said that the “men’s business has been healthy. To me, the big issue has been the women’s side, especially with the advent of the foreign verticals.” He cited the fast-fashion retailers Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and Primark. The chairman also noted an NPD report from years back stating that men are more loyal to their brands, while women are more willing to be exploratory with new brands.

While George Feldenkreis has said last year he might be taking a day or two here and there to relax on his boat, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. “The boat continues to be an ambition of my life. I have one parked next to my home and I don’t use it, but I should,” he said, noting that “It’s not in my DNA to relax. One of the reasons that I [made the change] is so I can concentrate on what we want to do.”

One area the company will continue to focus on is mergers and acquisitions. “We will always be looking. Our company has been very acquisitive through the years.…That is how we built the company,” the chairman said. He added that company will view M&A opportunities “with an open mind,” possibly at some point acquiring an e-commerce company or, from a products standpoint, an accessories firm to complement our brands. Both will allow us to grow.”

Oscar Feldenkreis said in a separate telephone interview that international is a big focus for the company, as is continuing to build the core brands, which comprise “90 percent of our total revenues.” The newly minted ceo also said an immediate priority is improving the “total experience” of its brands, but that also means a deeper dive into understanding the differences between the Millennial consumers and the Baby Boomers, both in how they shop and how they each look at brands. “That’s a big challenge for all of us in the industry. And the lack of tourism means re-adapting the business to a much more local consumer [base],” he added.