Holt Renfrew, facing intensifying competition from the growing presence of Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom across Canada’s landscape, has triggered a change in leadership, naming Mario Grauso its new president, succeeding Mark Derbyshire.
According to the company, Derbyshire decided to step down after seven years as president to pursue new career opportunities. Grauso, currently president of the Joe Fresh brand, will join Holt Renfrew in September when Derbyshire leaves.
“I want to thank Mark for his significant contribution to Holt Renfrew over the years,” said W. Galen Weston, chairman of Selfridges Group, which owns Holt Renfrew. “Under his leadership, the business has enhanced its iconic status as a world-class retail brand and a leader in the Canadian market.”
“It has been a privilege to lead Holt Renfrew and I am proud of what we have accomplished and the great team we have built,” Derbyshire said. “The company is in a great place and it is the right time for me to meet the next challenge.”
Derbyshire had been steering Holt through an aggressive $300 million expansion program over the last several years, geared to take Holt from 800,000 square feet to more than 1.2 million square feet. The company is also seeking to eclipse $1 billion in revenues and has been estimated recently by sources to be somewhere around $900 million in annual volume.
But Holt needs to tighten its grip on Canada’s luxury market in light of Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue invading Canada with multiple locations. Nordstrom made its Canada debut in Calgary in September 2014, subsequently added its Vancouver and Ottawa units and sees up to nine full-line locations. The next Nordstrom in Canada will open in Toronto’s Eaton Centre in September.
Saks Fifth Avenue operates two stores in Canada, on Queen Street in Eaton Centre and in Sherway Gardens, and has announced a third store which will open in Calgary. The luxury chain sees seven full-line stores potentially operating in Canada.
Joe Fresh, which maintains a strong presence inside Loblaw grocery stores in Canada, had not had an easy time in the U.S. Joe Fresh stopped selling at J.C. Penney stores several months ago after the companies decided not to renew their distribution agreement that expired Jan. 30, 2016, after a two-year relationship.
Joe Fresh in March also shut down its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York, as well as other units in the city.
Before Joe Fresh, Grauso was president of the Vera Wang Group. He also held senior positions at Céline, Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani, and from 2004 to 2009 was president of Puig Fashion, the parent company of Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne.
Joe Fresh is one of six operating divisions within Loblaw Cos. Ltd. whose largest shareholder is George Weston Ltd., which is majority-owned by the Weston family. Holt Renfrew is part of the Selfridges Group, which is also owned by the Westons.