NEW YORK — James Hauslein, chairman of Sunglass Hut, expects to derive stronger results from the company’s combination strategy for sunglass-watch stores now that he’s reassumed the title of chief executive officer of the specialty chain.
As ceo, Hauslein succeeds John Watson who, amid an avalanche of ceo departures Monday, resigned after three years as president, chief executive and director of the company.
Greg Milne, previously chief operating officer of the company’s North American operation, succeeds Watson as president and also assumes the new post of chief operating officer.
On the conference call with analysts Tuesday, Hauslein said, “My commitment is a full-time one and I intend to focus the company’s resources on initiatives designed to significantly improve performance in 2001 and beyond.”
He advocated better execution at the store level and outlined three initiatives for the coming year, including:
Fixing the stand-alone watch business. He said the specific actions taken will apply to the Sunglass Hut and combo-store configurations as well. The company acquired Watch World for about $30 million last year.
Selectively continuing unit expansion of the combo format. “I believe our early tests were indicative and accurate and that would lead us to believe that we have the opportunity to significantly improve the combo business,” noted the new ceo.
Positioning the combo strategy and its exclusive brands program as part of the “foundation” of earnings going forward.
“As Sunglass Hut has grown and evolved, the challenges the company faces have changed,” noted Hauslein in a statement. “We have an excellent opportunity in 2001 to position the company for more predictable and sustainable long-term growth in earnings per share.”
Milne will report to Hauslein as will the areas of finance, international operations, human resources and direct channels, which encompasses the company’s e-commerce and catalog businesses. Reporting to Milne are store operations, marketing, merchandising planning and control, real estate and the information technology functions.
Sunglass Hut’s principal shareholder since 1987, Hauslein has served as the company’s chairman since 1991 and was acting chief executive for six months beginning in 1997.
On the call, he noted that during his tenure as acting ceo, Sunglass Hut was able “to restructure the company to, among other things, dramatically reduce and refresh our inventory, close underperforming stores, discontinue nongo-forward operations, [and] begin to develop the combo strategy.”
Milne joined the company in 1996 and served as managing director of its Australasia division through July 2000. Hauslein said in that position, Milne “had full autonomy and authority for all business functions reporting to him including merchandising, marketing, store operations, merchandise planning and control, the distribution center in Sydney, the financial and information technology.”
The Coral Gables, Fla.-based firm had 1,976 units at the close of last year under Sunglass Hut, Watch Station and Watch World.
Watson’s departure follows three months of sales performances that, while positive on a comparable-store basis, were viewed as a disappointment. Comps rose 5.9 percent in December versus 3 percent in November and 5.5 in September.

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