Lord & Taylor, seeking to “reimagine” its business model to reverse its languid performance, has hired Vanessa LeFebvre as its new president.
LeFebvre joins Lord & Taylor from Stitch Fix, where she was focused on data science and personalization and was vice president over women’s. Before that, she was at Macy’s, where she was instrumental in launching the Backstage off-price concept.
LeFebvre started her career at Lord & Taylor in 1999 in the executive training program and eventually rose to divisional merchandise manager. She went on to hold senior roles at T.J. Maxx, as a divisional merchandise manager, and Daffy’s, which she was chief merchant and helped wind down the off-price chain.
“Vanessa is a change agent with a track record of conceptualizing and building new lines of business. This, combined with her strong experience leading digitally focused strategies and understanding of department store retailing, makes her the right person to lead Lord & Taylor into the future,” said Helena Foulkes, chief executive officer of HBC, which operates Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off 5th, Galeria Kaufhof and Gilt.
Foulkes added, “My focus across all our banners is to put the customer first in everything we do, Vanessa understands how to take insights and data and drive successful customer focused strategies.” She also called LeFebvre a “team builder and very transparent leader.”
There has been recent speculation about Lord & Taylor’s future, from a possible sale of the business to a slow wind-down.
“Clearly we are not happy with the performance with Lord & Taylor, but that being said, we all see a tremendous amount of opportunity,” said Foulkes. “The idea is to evolve Lord & Taylor for the future, that is what I was looking for in choosing the leadership. Lord and Taylor has some amazing locations, small enough to be nimble and try new things. That is the spirit of Lord & Taylor.”
Asked if Lord & Taylor would wind down its operations, Foulkes replied, “Definitely not.”
HBC is soon expected to reveal details of L&T’s partnership with walmart.com. The arrangement is intended to lift L&T’s online business by exposing it to a wider customer base outside its current Northeast regional focus, while elevating the fashion appeal of Walmart.
While that is a growth maneuver, the division said four stores would close over the next year or so, including two that have already closed. In October, HBC disclosed that L&T’s most valuable asset — the Fifth Avenue flagship building — would be sold to WeWork for $850 million. WeWork plans to convert the property to its New York headquarters and use three other HBC locations in Canada and Germany for WeWork facilities. When the WeWork deal was announced, HBC said it would retain 150,000 square feet for a downsized L&T store. However, some sources believe that HBC has decided not to go forward with the store in order to avoid paying rent to WeWork. Asked if L&T is abandoning Fifth Avenue, an HBC spokesman said the company will discuss plans for the site at a future date. The spokesman also declined comment on speculation that L&T is being put up for sale. It’s regional status, recent tough performance, and sale of the flagship, makes L&T a challenging business to market. LeFebrve left her job as vice president and general merchandise manager at Stitch Fix on Friday to join Lord & Taylor. She succeeds Liz Rodbell, who left L&T at the end of April.
“Lord & Taylor has a long heritage with its consumer. The brand loyalty is notorious in the industry,” said LeFebvre. “The market is rooting for us, too.”
LeFebvre’s appointment is effective May 22. She will report directly to Foulkes.