Teenage retailer Rue 21 on Tuesday unveiled executive appointments and a renewed commitment to delivering a customer-centric experience that it hopes will propel the brand forward in 2017.
Rue 21 has performed unevenly over the last decade with challenges including the fickle teen consumer and self-inflicted growing pains. The retailer’s parent, Pennsylvania Fashions Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. The company emerged with a new name, Rue 21 Inc., a year later. Rue 21 went public in 2009 with underwriters Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Piper Jaffray & Co. But the IPO hasn’t been a panacea for its problems, which include expanding beyond its core niche of small towns and small cities and moving closer to major metropolitan areas.
On Tuesday, Dirk Armstrong, who spent five years at Rue 21 as senior vice president and director of stores, was promoted to chief operating officer, a new position. Formerly, Armstrong was senior vice president and director of stores at Ann Taylor, and prior to that regional director of Gap.
Armstrong will be tasked with driving the strategic vision of Rue 21’s brick-and-mortar locations and managing the 21,000 field employees across its 1,217 stores. He will also lead the strategy that will transform the company’s girls’ in-store experience to meet the girls’ merchandise transformation being led by chief merchandise officer Nina Barjesteh.
Brett Trent, previously chief digital officer at Rue 21, was named chief marketing officer, also a new position. Prior to that, he was the retailer’s senior vice president of digital retail. Before joining Rue 21, Trent was vice president of e-commerce at Ascena Retail Group’s Charming Shoppes, and before that, Goody’s. In his new Rue 21 role, Trent will unite the customer-facing capabilities and technology resources born within the company’s digital platform with the customer-centric brand vision of the marketing department. Together with Liz Hodges, chief customer officer, Trent will expand the use of data and technology to more closely interact with Rue 21’s customers at brand touch points, including online and social media.
“We’re excited to have both Dirk and Brett moving forward in these new roles for the company,” said Keith McDonough, who in October was named interim ceo at Rue 21. “We have clear goals in 2017 to transform the customer experience and girls’ merchandise offering, while being completely customer-centric, and we could not have two better leaders on our team supporting this transformation.”
Robert Fisch, the ceo, and Kim Reynolds, who headed merchandising, were ousted in October.
Rue 21 is on the ratings agencies’ watch list for high-yield bonds and institutional term loans.