NEW YORK — After a short flight at J. Crew, Ken Pilot has landed at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.
The retail veteran joined Polo on Monday as president of factory stores and retail concept development, responsible for the operations of its factory outlet stores worldwide and the development of new store concepts — reflecting the company’s overall ambitions to augment its retail portfolio.
Pilot reports to Bridget Ryan Berman, group president of Polo Ralph Lauren Retail, and takes over some of the duties of James Gundell, the former president of factory store concepts who left the company. Pilot has an extensive background with specialty retail concepts, having held several merchandising roles on a global basis in his 13 years with Gap Inc., including as president of Gap International. He had left in August 2002 to try to turn around J. Crew as chief executive officer, but left after five months when his former boss, ex-Gap ceo Mickey Drexler, took his place.
“Ken is a seasoned retail professional with a strong background in merchandising, operations and marketing,” Berman said in a statement. “As we continue the expansion and growth of our worldwide retail business, Ken’s expertise will add strategic strength to the Polo Ralph Lauren retail management team.”
As reported, Polo has been increasingly focused on its own retail growth. Last September, the company named Wayne Meichner as president of Polo Retail and Charles Fagan as executive vice president of global retail brand development, with plans for opening new store formats for initiatives like Polo’s Blue Label bridge collection. Meichner also is projected to direct the opening of between 50 and 60 new stores within the domestic market over the next five or six years. Polo currently has some 35 domestic stores, more than 100 factory outlet stores and another 100 stores licensed internationally.
Pilot, in his new position, is expected to look at Polo’s existing retail concepts on a global basis and then consider what types of stores the company might want to test. Polo has been increasingly experimental in its own retail channels, having signed a lease to open a small-format store on Bleecker Street in New York this month, opened a Ralph Lauren Baby store in April across from its Madison Avenue flagship and launched exclusive products like customized Polo shirts on polo.com.