Francesca’s Holdings Corp. appointed Steve P. Lawrence as its president and chief executive officer effective Oct. 10. Lawrence replaces the previous chief executive officer Michael Barnes who left in May after only two years in the role.
Lawrence comes to Francesca’s from Stage Stores Inc. where he was the chief merchandising officer since May 2012. During that time, the comp performance had been mixed. But Stage Stores is greatly exposed to the Texas market, which has been subjected to headwinds from the pressure in the oil patch.
William Blair equity research analyst Amy Noblin said, “Mr. Lawrence’s extensive career in merchandising, albeit mostly in men’s, bodes well for Francesca’s given its unique merchandising strategy that emphasizes quick lead times and fast turns.” Prior to his work at Stage Stores, Lawrence was general merchandising manager and executive vice president for J.C. Penney from September 2000 to March 2012. At that time he covered men’s, kid’s and home businesses. He started his career at May Department Stores in 1990.
Noblin did say that by filling the position Francesca’s removes some of the uncertainty from the stock. Just a few weeks ago, the stock popped as the company beat analyst expectations for the second quarter and raised guidance for the full year. The stock is up 26 percent for the past year, but hasn’t recovered to its 52-week high of $19.90. It was lately trading at $15.17.
Noblin gives Francesca’s a market perform rating. “We continue to believe valuation will be suppressed ahead of more difficult comparisons in the back half and volatility around recent performance, where we would wait for greater signs of top-line stability before becoming more constructive.”