After a difficult three years at the helm, Kathryn Bufano, president and chief executive officer of The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., will resign from the regional department store operator on Aug. 25, and will be succeeded by William Tracy, chief operating officer.
The company said the transition period will “ensure an orderly and effective leadership transition.”
Bufano knew she was stepping into a tough turnaround situation when she joined Bon-Ton in 2014, after a successful run at Belk Inc., where she was president and chief merchandising officer. She developed a blueprint for reviving the department store chain and consistently expressed the belief that operating regional department stores had its advantages to national department stores and that they could operate more effectively as “hometown stores.” While working to localize the assortments, Bufano also led cost-cutting efforts.
However, Bon-Ton’s negative results persisted. The company has been experiencing weak traffic trends, as are many retailers, though many of Bon-Ton’s stores are in economically challenged middle-market cities and suburbs.
For fiscal 2016, Bon-Ton posted a net loss of $63.4 million, or $3.18 per diluted share. Fiscal 2016 results include 32 cents per diluted share in consulting expenses and severance costs related to cost-savings initiatives, and 85 cents per diluted share in noncash asset impairment charges. The chain was recently successful in extending its credit facility out to 2022 from 2018, and there was an increase in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to $116 million from $109.5 million the year before.
Total sales decreased 4.3 percent to $2.6 billion from $2.72 billion. Comparable-store sales decreased 3.8 percent last year.
This year’s first-quarter results will be released May 18.
In another high-level change, Chad Stauffer, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of center core and children’s, has stepped up to executive vice president and cmo, reporting to the ceo.
Last week, the company said Tim Grumbacher will retire as chairman and strategic initiatives officer on May 13. Debra K. Simon, a member of the board, has been elected chairman. Grumbacher will continue to serve as chairman emeritus and adviser to the ceo.
Tracy served as chief operating officer of Bon-Ton since July 2015. He previously held management positions at Hudson’s Bay Co. including executive vice president of supply chain, logistics and omnichannel fulfillment, and global sourcing. Earlier, he was executive vice president of supply chain, omnichannel fulfillment and information services. Earlier, he was chief operating officer at Fortunoff Brands LLC and Nine West Corp., and before that worked at Lord & Taylor and Abraham & Straus.
Stauffer has spent more than nine years at Bon-Ton, and earlier worked at Belk Department Stores, Sports Authority, Kohl’s Corp., J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and May Department Stores Co.
Tracy said he sees “opportunities to build on the strategic initiatives we have in place.”
Grumbacher credited Bufano with instituting Bon-Ton’s “Your Store, Your Style” rebranding initiative, which included elevating the assortment with brand introductions, enhancing the store’s rewards programs and launching a localization strategy.
Bufano is among the few women at the helm of a major retail corporation. She could not be reached for comment Monday.
Bon-Ton, based in York, Pa. and Milwaukee, Wisc., operates 261 stores, which includes nine furniture galleries and four clearance centers, in 25 states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers nameplates.