NEW YORK — John Budd, a retail executive who helped shape the advertising of J.C. Penney, Macy’s West and other stores, died of cancer July 16 at the CareOne rehabilitation center in Paramus, N.J. He was 74.
Budd started his career as a buyer in the furniture department at Abraham & Straus in Brooklyn in the mid-Fifties, rising to divisional merchandise manager of home. He joined Gimbel’s in Pittsburgh as a general merchandise manager in 1973, then moved to May Department Stores Co., where he remained throughout the Eighties. Budd’s first job at May in 1977 was senior vice president of advertising at the May Company Cleveland. He became executive vice president of merchandising at Kaufmann’s in Pittsburgh in 1979, and executive vice president of home at the May Company California division in 1981. Budd retired in the late Eighties and moved to Palm Desert. He wasn’t retired for long when he got a call from Allen Questrom, who in 1990 became chairman and chief executive officer of Federated Department Stores.
“I hired [John] as gmm of home furnishings at Jordan Marsh when I became ceo of Federated,” said Questrom. When A&S and Jordan Marsh were merged in 1992 by Federated, “[John] didn’t want to be part of the consolidation,” Questrom said. “So I got Mike Steinberg, [then ceo of Macy’s West] to hire him as head of advertising.”
Budd retired from Macy’s West in 1999 and headed back to Palm Desert, Calif., but the respite was short-lived. In 2001, Questrom, by then chairman and ceo of J.C. Penney, convinced Budd to join the retailer as senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Budd retired from Penney’s in 2004.
“He was the best advertising person we ever had,” said Questrom, who met Budd at A&S. “He came from a merchandising background and understood product. He did a fabulous job. John was a fabulous teacher. He did a lot to develop teams around him and left a very solid organization behind him. He’s one of the four or five people who helped Penney’s get to where it is today. John was responsible for all the advertising. He helped make the commercials more focused and entertaining and helped get Penney’s [advertising] onto the Academy Awards.”
Ken Kolker, who was ceo of May Merchandising Co. from 1993 to 2003, said: “John was remarkably acute. He had an ability to get into details and do things in a constructive, conceptual way. He could be in merchandising, marketing or operations. He was knowledgeable about every phase of the business. He loved any and all phases of retailing.”
Budd’s stepson, Glenn Lembersky, said his stepfather enjoyed playing tennis, renovating houses and collecting automobiles — he had a Bentley and a Porsche. “He also loved speaking in front of big audiences,” he said, noting that Budd had a finely honed sense of humor. “He would have the audience in stitches. He would even make fun of Questrom. The people at J.C. Penney couldn’t wait for the next company meeting.”
Budd is survived by his wife, Evelyn, son Stephen and daughter Andria, two other stepchildren, Robert Lembersky and Karen Lambert, and four grandchildren.