SAKS TAPS GEORGE JONES OF WB

Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — George Jones, currently president of worldwide licensing and Studio Stores for Warner Bros., will become chief executive officer of the $4 billion Saks Inc. department store group on March 1.
The position is a new one at the group, though Jones essentially fills responsibilities formerly held by Robert Mosco, who served as president and chief operating officer until last August. Reporting to Jones will be the department store division heads, as well as the corporate marketing and private brand divisions.
Jones will also serve on the board of directors of Saks Inc. Aside from 252 department stores around the country, Saks Inc. also operates Saks Fifth Avenue. Jones will be based in the Birmingham, Ala., headquarters of the department store group and Saks Inc.
After about 10 years of growth, DSG performed poorly for most of last year, as did most of the sector. However, the company said during November and December, comp-store gains were good at department stores. There’s been steady speculation that given the recent difficulties and perceptions that there’s little, if any, growth opportunities for regional department stores, Saks Inc. will eventually sell off DSG or pieces of it, to focus more on Saks Fifth Avenue.
DSG operates in 24 states under the names Carson Pirie Scott, Parisian, Proffitt’s, McRae’s, Younkers, Herberger’s, Bergner’s and Boston Store.
Responding to such speculation on Monday, when the DSG ceo was announced, Brad Martin, Saks Inc. chairman and ceo, replied, “George shares my enthusiasm about the future of the department store industry, and about the future of our department store business. This is a long-term business that has great value-creating opportunities ahead of it.” Jones will report to Martin.
Asked if he considered the department stores a turnaround effort, Martin said, “The group did post solid comp-store sales for November and December,” with an improved inventory at the end of the year. He also said that the department stores compiled “a 10-year record of extraordinary growth,” though “the first three quarters of 2000 were quite disappointing.”
“During the second half of 2000, we took the merchandising, marketing, customer service and personnel actions necessary to regain our operating momentum in the DSG business. We are now seeing the positive results of these decisions and initiatives.”
Saks Inc. is planning to spin off Saks Fifth Avenue from the department store group this year, and is expected to discuss that plan next week, around the time the company reports year-end sales results.
“We believe that this business has a great future with George at the helm,” Martin said.
Jones has nearly 30 years of retail experience, including several at discounters. Since 1994, he served as head of Warner Bros. worldwide licensing and Studio Stores, as well as being responsible for the worldwide publishing, interactive entertainment and Kids WB Music operations of Warner Bros., generating total annual worldwide retail sales in excess of $7 billion.
From 1991 to 1994, he was president and ceo of Rose’s Stores, a discounter. He orchestrated a turnaround strategy there through a bankruptcy reorganization and returned the business to profitability.
From 1984 to 1991, Jones held key positions with Target Stores, including executive vice president of operations, and senior vice president of merchandising hardlines and vice president of apparel. Jones also has held merchandising and operations positions with Diamonds Department Stores and Dillard’s.
Some in the industry questioned his appointment at Saks Inc.
“I’m surprised by the placement, because of his lack of extensive department store experience,” said Kirk Palmer, president of Kirk Palmer & Associates executive search. “Nonetheless, he is a highly respected, strong merchant.”

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