NEW YORK — Caryn Lerner has been tapped as the new president of Holt Renfrew & Co., confirming WWD reports.
Lerner, 47, began as president on Monday and is based at the Canadian chain’s headquarters in Toronto. She succeeds Andrew Jennings, who left in February to join Saks Fifth Avenue.
“Caryn’s leadership skills will play a key role in the evolution of Holt Renfrew as an emerging international brand,” said W. Galen Weston, chairman of Holt Renfrew, in a statement. Company executives declined comment Monday.
However, in a statement, Lerner said she believes there are “tremendous opportunities” to leverage the global assets of the company and take Holt Renfrew to “even higher levels of performance and customer satisfaction.”
The move comes at a key time for the retailer, which has sales of about $250 million and operates nine retail units and two clearance centers across Canada. It has been working to elevate its status as a purveyor of luxury brands at the same time it seeks to bring in younger labels and draw a more fashion-forward crowd. Among the brands the chain now sells are Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Miss Sixty, Puma, Seven For All Mankind and Chip & Pepper.
“Caryn can fill a niche for the company,” said retail consultant Marvin Traub on Monday. Traub, who has consulted Holt Renfrew, also worked with Lerner at Bloomingdale’s many years ago. “She is a talented merchant and has experience in retailing and manufacturing,” he noted. “This is a store that is growing, particularly in the area of designer apparel and young fashion and she will help build that. It is a big job, but she will learn and grow.”
Holt Renfrew is part of Wittington Investments, the company controlled by Weston that also includes Selfridges and Brown Thomas.
The president position has been vacant since February when Jennings, then president and managing director, left to become president and chief merchandising officer of Saks Fifth Avenue. He is credited with elevating the status of Holt Renfrew by bringing in newer labels and staging innovative and high-profile marketing events as well as appearances by big-name designers and models.
Lerner, who is well known in the industry, has management experience in both the wholesale and retail arenas. She was most recently president and chief marketing officer of Escada USA Inc. She spent seven years at that company in sales positions before becoming president and chief marketing officer for the U.S. business in 1998. She left the firm in 2003 after a tough period for the brand and a company-wide review of the overall business resulted in her departure. Prior to Escada, Lerner was a senior manager of On-Q, a former division of QVC, and has also held positions at Bloomingdale’s and Jones New York.
Stuart Fraser, who has served as interim president since March, will continue in his role as senior vice president and chief financial officer, Holt Renfrew said on Monday.