FROM H&M TO EB?: Fabian Mansson, former chief executive officer of Hennes & Mauritz, has emerged as the lead candidate to head up Eddie Bauer, sources said Wednesday. He would succeed Richard T. Fersch, who retired from the Seattle-based retail and catalog firm last January, as president and ceo.

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Bauer, a division of Spiegel, has been grappling with design directions and difficulties connecting with consumers for several seasons, and has recently been closing more stores than its been opening. Responding to the report, a Spiegel spokeswoman said: “We have not hired anyone yet. It’s premature to say that we’ve successfully filled the job.”

While Bauer tends to be more classic and casual than trendy young H&M, Mansson’s broad experience at the Swedish chain is well suited for the troubled Bauer. He rose up the ranks of H&M in the Nineties, serving as a controller and a merchant, and became ceo in 1998. He left in 2000 following a drop in earnings.

Likewise, Fersch left Bauer just when that business was tumbling. But he is credited with growing the brand into an international, tri-channel retailer, with sales increasing from $900 million to more than $1.6 billion. Bauer officials could not be reached.

A BIGGER DROP: Rabid downtown shoppers have another stop: Big Drop, the SoHo boutique at 174 Spring Street and purveyor of hip brands like Seven, Joie and Rebecca Taylor, is opening a second outpost Friday, just around the corner at 425 West Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets. The new, larger location (1,500 square feet) features cutting-edge designers like Development, Ya-ya, Petrozillia and Martin, while the old store, which is 1,200 square feet, will continue to develop less-established labels.

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