Searching for Saviors: Can Retailers Truly Find The Perfect Chief Exec?

NEW YORK — Allen Questrom’s charisma, Millard Drexler’s merchandising skills, Leslie Wexner’s thoughtfulness and Rose Marie...

Michael Weiss, Express: One of the few merchants that has endured for decades at the parent, Limited Brands, he’s got fashion flair and leadership skills with a vision for the brand and an ability to communicate it to his workers so they are motivated into action and constantly updating. Fast-fashion is his baby.

Rose Marie Bravo, Burberry: She reinvented the plaid into a happening wholesale and retail brand and is always near the top of executive search lists when big vacancies arise. But for now at least, she’s wedded to Burberry with a huge personal stake. Bravo is considered a strong leader, well liked, an outstanding, aggressive merchant with great taste and is credited for adding elegance to Saks Fifth Avenue, where she was once president.

The Kohl’s team, including Larry Montgomery and retirees Jay Baker and William Kellogg: The company continues to demonstrate an ability to grow rapidly and profitably, bringing it into new markets, where it almost always plays well. It also sustains shareholder value. Kohl’s has a retail model that other retailers fear and try to emulate.

Greg Weaver, Pacific Sunwear: Considered a visionary, he built the chain into a major national business, and is said to have a tight grip on his target customers. He lives the lifestyle.

Lee Scott, Wal-Mart: Charismatic, with a modest air, he has a broad skill set, from logistics and distribution to merchandising, and has perpetuated the Sam Walton culture and rapid growth of the world’s largest company, while cautiously exploring new formats for stores and merchandise, and going after acquisitions.

Marvin and Helene Gralnick, Chico’s: They seized a niche and have yet to let go, with a steady vision and good product skills. "You’ll never see a pair of fitted Lycra side-slit pants there," said a source, for their baby-boomer and older customers. It’s also one of the better chains for service.

Lew Frankfort, Coach: Great focus, great understanding of the customer and leadership. He’s established Coach as perhaps the world’s top accessories brand.

Marvin Traub: The former Bloomingdale’s impresario/chairman, now a partner in Financo Inc., Traub made Bloomingdale’s into an internationally known nameplate, then reinvented himself into a consultant with a hand in all sorts of businesses. He just keeps going.
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