BORZINO SAID TO BE OUSTED AS HEAD OF CASUAL CORNER
Byline: David Moin
NEW YORK — Claudio Del Vecchio is shaking up the hemorrhaging Casual Corner chain, forcing out Leopoldo Borzino, president, sources said this week.
Officials at Casual Corner could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Del Vecchio is a member of the family that owns the Luxottica eyewear manufacturing and retailing empire, based in Agordo, Italy.
He holds the title of managing director.
According to one source, Del Vecchio may have taken control of the reins of Casual Corner.
Two years ago, Luxottica purchased U.S. Shoe Corp., primarily for the Lenscrafter eyewear chain. But through the purchase, Luxottica also picked up the former U.S. Shoe’s women’s retail group, including the Casual Corner, Petite Sophisticates and August Max chains.
It also purchased the shoe businesses, which were sold off to Nine West Group.
Casual Corner, which was U.S. Shoe’s dominant retail chain, has floundered through the Nineties, struggling with inferior merchandise and difficulty retaining focus.
It’s among many women’s specialty chains that have done poorly recently due to the reduced consumer traffic in malls and overabundance of retail space and merchandising errors.
However, Casual Corner has continually struggled to find a niche, switching from an emphasis on casual to career, and vice versa.
Casual Corner was also hurt by the rise of Limited and Gap in the Eighties.
Under Luxottica’s control, things have hardly improved. Reportedly, Casual Corner has been losing millions annually, but the Del Vecchio family, one of the richest in Italy, has been pouring money into salvage efforts.
Borzino’s reported departure is just the latest in series of rescue maneuvers.
Luxottica has been steadily closing underperforming stores and has pared down the chain to approximately 900 stores currently, from a peak of around 1,500.
There have also been reports of layoffs in recent months at the headquarters in Enfield, Conn., and some in field management.
An attempt has also been made to focus and improve the quality of the merchandise. The company last year recruited Mara Urshel, a former Saks Fifth Avenue senior vice president and general merchandise manager, to oversee the private label development in New York.
After the purchase in 1995, there were rumors that Luxottica was entertaining offers for Casual Corner.
However, Luxottica eventually said they would operate and try to buff up Casual Corner to get a better deal down the road.
That decision surprised analysts, considering Luxottica had no history in women’s apparel retailing and the poor financial condition of Casual Corner.
Prior to joining Casual Corner, Borzino was chief executive officer of GFT USA. Borzino at Casual Corner succeeded Michael Searles, who had a short stint at the chain.