Tommy Bahama is changing its leadership.
This story first appeared in the October 7, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Douglas B. Wood, the brand’s current president, will be elevated to chief executive officer on Jan. 30, at the end of the company’s fiscal year. He will take the reins from Terry R. Pillow, who will retire at that time and step into an advisory role.
Thomas C. Chubb III, chairman and ceo of Oxford Industries, parent company of Tommy Bahama, complimented Pillow for turning the business around during his tenure.
“Terry joined Tommy Bahama in 2008 at a critical juncture for the business. The founders were retiring and we were entering an unprecedented economic downturn. Terry has done a tremendous job propelling the business forward and enhancing the depth and breadth of the successful Tommy Bahama lifestyle brand we recognize today,” he said.
He added that since Wood joined Tommy Bahama in 2001, two years prior to Oxford’s acquisition of the label, he has proven his mettle in operations. “For the past 14 years, Doug has been responsible for all aspects of Tommy Bahama’s financial and operating functions,” Chubb said. “With his leadership, Tommy Bahama has transformed from a $200 million wholesale-focused company to a $600-plus million lifestyle brand driven by its direct-to-consumer business.”
In a telephone interview with WWD, Chubb said Wood has been “part of the growth story for a long time.” He credited the executive with helping to successfully convert a wholesale company into a multichannel business that now operates 160 stores around the world. “During Doug’s tenure, we developed expertise as a retailer, not a wholesaler with retail stores,” Chubb said.
He also said the brand’s e-commerce initiative was “championed by Doug and that’s now an immensely successful part of our business.”
“Doug has never been about standing still and status quo, but evolving with the consumer while staying relevant to the Tommy Bahama island lifestyle,” Chubb added.
Wood joined the Seattle-based Tommy Bahama in 2001 as chief operating officer and was named president in 2008. He began his career at the Boeing Defense and Space Group before joining McCaw Cellular/AT&T in 1994, where he served as vice president of operations.
Wood cited the “incredible support” he has received from Oxford and its commitment to “running a full-price business.”
“In 2008, we transitioned from a founder-based company to a professionally managed company when Terry stepped in,” Wood said. “He understood the fashion aspect and connecting with the consumer in direct-to-consumer and e-commerce while retaining a strong wholesale arm.”
He said his goal as ceo will be to continue that strategy while working to increase the brand’s reach in women’s wear. “We want to focus on keeping our strong men’s presence while becoming a dual-gender brand,” said Wood.
For the past several years, Tommy Bahama has been a growth engine for the Atlanta-based Oxford. In the second quarter, the label posted a 3 percent comparable-store sales gain, which was partially offset by a decrease in wholesale sales. The wholesale business has been impacted by the challenging environment faced by specialty stores, where the brand has its primary exposure.
In the period, men’s wear, which is the anchor for the brand, posted strong results, while women’s sales, which account for less than one-third of the overall business, were softer, Chubb said at the time. Over the past year, the company has named Bradley O’Brien as its new head of design and her touch will be evident in the spring 2016 women’s collection.
Tommy Bahama’s international business, while still operating at a loss, is seen as another growth vehicle. The company has wholly owned divisions in Canada and Australia, where the business is “successful and profitable.” In Asia, the brand is exiting secondary markets and is focusing its efforts on Japan, Chubb said. “And we’re exploring partnering in select markets around the world,” he said, pointing out that that was the way the brand originally entered Canada and Australia before taking control of those regions.
Chubb also noted that the divestiture of the Ben Sherman brand, revealed at the end of March, was completed in the second quarter, allowing the corporation to put its focus on its Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer businesses. “This supports our long-term plan, which is to acquire another carefully selected lifestyle brand or two,” Chubb said last month.
On Tuesday, he said that Wood’s contribution extends beyond Tommy Bahama to Oxford as a whole “as we look to strategize for the future.” He also noted that there was never any “serious thought” about searching for Pillow’s successor from outside the company. “This has been years in the works,” he said. “And even if we’d gone outside, I’m convinced there’s no one more qualified or prepared than Doug to lead Tommy Bahama forward.”
Before joining Tommy Bahama in 2008, Pillow had been ceo of Ralph Lauren Footwear. He had also served as ceo of The Rockport Co. and president of Coach and A/X Armani Exchange. He was also president and ceo of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. from 1999 to 2005. He began his career at Neiman Marcus.