Sears Canada has named Carrie Kirkman, former president of The Jones Group Canada, as its new president and chief merchant.
Kirkman, a 25-year veteran of the Canadian fashion industry, becomes the first woman in Sears Canada’s history to hold the role. She succeeds Ronald Boies, who was named acting president and chief executive officer in October 2014.
“I’m still pinching myself,” Kirkman, a longtime advocate for the empowerment of women in business, said, “This is an honor and it is a challenge. But it is also exciting to be part of moving this business forward in a meaningful way,” said Kirkman, who launched her career in Montreal in the wholesale business and went on to become merchandising director at Liz Claiborne Canada. She later served as general merchandise manager at Canadian retailers such as Hudson’s Bay Company and Zellers.
She was appointed president of The Jones Group Canada in 2010.
“We were looking for a very specific profile to fill this leadership role,” said Brandon G. Stranzl, the executive chairman of Sears Canada Inc.
Kirkman’s earlier successes working within department stores and in soft home merchandising, coupled with a strong track record in vendor relationships, were significant factors in her favor. But according to Stranzl, her ability to connect with consumers and give them an exceptional shopping experience made her the front-runner for the position.
“We saw that Carrie could inspire confidence in Canadian consumers. That is what we need as this company moves forward,” Stranzl said.
Sears Canada — which Sears Holdings Corp. spun off to its existing shareholders in 2012 and in which Edward Lampert’s ESL Investments owns 27 percent — has struggled with falling revenue and erratic profit losses for several years. In September, the retailer reported that second-quarter revenues were down by 9.1 percent to 768.8 million Canadian dollars, or $589 million, compared to 844.4 million Canadian dollars, or $646.9 million, in 2014.
Yet the company also claimed in June that it had reached a “turning point” when its core retail network showed positive sales momentum. The sale of some properties helped to produce a profit gain of 67.2 million Canadian dollars, or $51.5 million, before taxes, for the company.
Against this backdrop, Sears Canada plans to revitalize the brand, reaffirm its standing in the consumer’s mind, and give “main street” shoppers hunting for good brands at moderate prices an enhanced retail experience across multiple channels.
“As we move forward our priority is to resonate more strongly with our customers,” said Stranzl.
That customer base is embodied by two key fictional shoppers Sears Canada has developed. One figure, dubbed Linda, represents the older Canadian consumer with a job and a family. The other figure, named Amy, captures the essence of the younger consumer with a career and smaller children — a market share Sears Canada hopes to grow in the years ahead, according to Stranzl.
“Everything we do from this point forward has to be focused on these two women. That includes everything from what paint is used in certain parts of the stores to the product placed on our shelves,” he said. “We, as a company, need to focus on brands and rebuild on our strengths. But we also have to resonate with our customers by touching them more on an emotional level.”