Searching for Growth, Sears Names Meads To Head Softer Side

In a high-level shakeup, Sears has named Mindy Meads executive vice president of soft lines, succeeding Kathryn Bufano, who left the chain Monday.

Bufano, who is 50, may have also had trouble integrating into the Sears culture, which compared with Macy’s East, a previous employer, would be considered much slower moving in the fashion arena. At Macy’s, Bufano served as executive vice president of women’s apparel. She was briefly president and chief merchandising officer at Dress Barn Inc. prior to joining Sears.

However, Sears has put Meads, who is 51, in an even bigger role than Bufano had. Meads was executive vice president of merchandising and design at Lands’ End, but will continue to head up merchandising for both Sears and Lands’ End. She reports to Cosby. Continuing to report to Cosby are Lyle Heidemann, hardlines, and Gus Pagonis, senior vice president of supply chain management. Before his position at Sears, Cosby was chief operating officer at KFC, USA, leading company and franchise operations for the 5,300-unit restaurant chain, formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"Mark is shaping his team," said Jan Drummond, a Sears spokeswoman on Tuesday. "He’s put in some time now at Sears, surveyed the landscape and is busy establishing and executing his priorities."

It’s not the first time Sears has tapped Lands’ End for executives. Last December, Bill Bass, who was Lands’ End’s senior vice president of e-commerce, was named vice president and general manager of catalog and Internet operations. Also, Jeff Jones, who was chief operating officer at Lands’ End, became senior vice president and general manager of Sears’ Great Indoors home chain. David Dyer, who was ceo of Lands’ End prior to its acquisition, continues in that role and has the additional title of executive vice president and general manager of Customer Direct.

Exclusive of special items and securitization income, fourth-quarter operating profits at the firm’s retail business rose 9.7 percent to $726 million from $662 million in the year-ago quarter. Sales were up 2.8 percent to $9.73 billion, from $9.47 billion. Without Lands End, the firm’s retail revenues fell 4 percent. Comparable-store sales slid 7.3 percent, with a high-single-digit decline in apparel.

"Who, exactly, acquired whom?" quipped an investment banking source familiar with both firms. "This is beginning to look like a reverse acquisition, but Sears also acquired a lot of good talent when it bought Lands’ End."
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