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Charles Chinni, a veteran of home furnishings retailing, was named chairman and chief executive officer, confirming a report in WWD. Don Watros has been selected as vice chairman, a new position.
NRDC Equity Partners LLC, owner of Lord & Taylor and Creative Design Studio, last week bought Fortunoff out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for $110 million. The seller was Trimaran Capital Partners, an equity group that along with K Group, another private equity firm, purchased Fortunoff in 2004. NRDC said it plans to spend $100 million to renovate Fortunoff stores and wants to double the size of the business in five years.
The chain's "serious challenges" include immediately replenishing inventories, attracting more shoppers and pumping up key categories, Chinni said in an interview. "The stores look good, though our inventory has been somewhat depleted based on the problems of the last six or eight weeks, and the lack of shipping. Right now, we are certainly low on inventory. Looking at the overall condition of the stores, I think they held up.
"The franchise isn't broke at all," he added. "People respect this name and brand. It's almost iconic in the Northeast."
"I do have a short list of categories I think can begin to be looked at for growth," Chinni said, citing window coverings, the more casual side of bridal business and fashion jewelry. He believes seasonal Christmas and outdoor furniture are among the stronger categories.
Chinni said he would consider a possible celebrity-endorsed home line to bring greater exclusivity to Fortunoff, but as yet has no one in mind.
He is reviewing the top managers but has no immediate plans for changes. Chinni succeeded Arnold Orlick, who left two weeks ago. He intends to get an apartment in Manhattan for easy access to the Fortunoff stores in the metro area, including the four full-line stores, and the Uniondale, N.Y., headquarters.
Another priority is installing Fortunoff-leased jewelry shops inside the 47 Lord & Taylor stores, replacing the Finlay leased jewelry operation.