CHUSTZ EXITS POST AT SHOPKO

NEW YORK — Skip Chustz has ended his eight-year tenure as senior vice president and general merchandise manager of softlines at Shopko Stores, the regional discounter based in Green Bay, Wis.
In confirming reports in the market of Chustz’s departure, a spokeswoman for Shopko said: “We’ve begun the search for a new general merchandise manager, which could include both internal and external candidates. Our stores are set for spring, and back-to-school plans are nearly complete.”
She declined to comment on the circumstances behind Chustz’s exit. Attempts to reach Chustz at home were unsuccessful. Chustz reportedly left the store on Thursday.
Chustz joined Shopko in his most recent post in 1993 and was an integral part of the effort to upgrade its merchandise assortments and help it remain vital in a mass market landscape increasingly dominated by national discounters such as Wal-Mart. A veteran of Maison Blanche in Baton Rouge, La., he brought a department-store flair to its apparel offerings and was closely identified with its move toward greater brand representation, improved visual merchandising and tighter vendor-store partnerships.
Although successful throughout the latter half of the Nineties, Shopko’s performance has softened in recent months as the retail environment has weakened, and it’s continued to absorb the Pamida operation, acquired in 1999. It had a loss from continuing operations of $8.4 million during the third quarter, below analysts’ expectations, on a 1 percent sales gain. Excluding sales of 23 stores to be closed at the end of the first quarter, February same-store sales were down 2.3 percent following a 0.8 increase in January and a more significant 4.2 percent decline in December.
Shopko operates 164 Shopko stores and 232 Pamida units.