Lands’ End Picks Retail Veteran and Luggage Executive Jerome Griffith as New CEO
‘Outdoor lifestyle kind of guy’ to replace Federica Marchionni, who was forced out in September
Lands’ End Inc. is pivoting from Ms. High Fashion to Mr. Harley-Davidson.
The catalog retailer on Monday named as its next chief executive Jerome Griffith, a motorcycle enthusiast and retail veteran who most recently ran luggage purveyor Tumi Holdings Inc.
Mr. Griffith, 59 years old, will start his new job in March and join the Lands’ End board. In a brief interview, he said he plans to relocate to Wisconsin, near the apparel company’s Dodgeville headquarters. According to his Facebook page, he currently lives in East Hampton, N.Y., and grew up in Amish country in Oxford, Pa.
Described by people who know him as an “outdoor lifestyle kind of guy,” Mr. Griffith has traveled across three continents on his Harley motorcycles and practices mixed martial arts. His appointment is an abrupt departure from Lands’ End’s former CEO, Federica Marchionni, who was forced out in September.
Born in Italy, Ms. Marchionni had previously worked for the Dolce & Gabbana fashion house and sports-car maker Ferrari. As part of her contract, the Lands’ End board allowed Ms. Marchionni to work primarily from a New York office. During her 19-month tenure, Ms. Marchionni ushered in changes such as a collection of spike heels and a new clothing line called Canvas with slimmer fits aimed at a younger clientele that roiled employees and turned off shoppers.
Lands’ End swung to a $19.5 million loss in its most recent fiscal year from a profit of $73.8 million the year earlier. Sales declined nearly 9% to $1.42 billion.
Since Ms. Marchionni’s departure, the retailer has scaled back the Canvas line—which performed below expectations, prompting the company to write down its inventory by $4.4 million in the most recent quarter—and has refocused on classic offerings like cable-knit sweaters and fleece vests.
To lure Mr. Griffith, Lands’ End is giving him restricted stock units and stock options worth about $7 million at Monday’s closing price, plus a long-term incentive award worth at least $1.9 million, according to a securities filing Monday. His annual salary will be $950,000 plus an annual target bonus equal to his base salary.
Mr. Griffith’s primary workplace will be Dodgeville. He will receive temporary corporate housing in the Madison, Wis., area through Aug. 31, given that he has agreed to obtain permanent housing in the area, according to the Lands’ End filing.
It is unclear what tack Mr. Griffith will take with Lands’ End, but he will face challenges in trying to steady the brand, which suffered during its ownership by Sears Holdings Corp. As the third CEO to run the company since it was spun off from Sears in 2014, Mr. Griffith will need to reinvigorate Lands’ End without alienating core customers.
Lands’ End shares, down 27% this year through Friday’s close, rose 3.8% to $17.75 on Monday.
At Tumi, Mr. Griffith took the stodgy luggage maker known for black and gray suitcases and turned it into a lifestyle brand by introducing colors and accessories, including women’s handbags, wallets and cosmetics cases. He also built an international footprint by opening stores overseas and forging partnerships with foreign distributors.
“His strengths are in the area of brand positioning, products and marketing,” said Joseph Gromek, Tumi’s former chairman. He added that Mr. Griffith was a good fit for Lands’ End given his background in apparel retailing at Esprit Holdings Ltd. and Tommy Hilfiger. He also worked for catalog retailer J. Peterman Co., which was parodied on the television show “Seinfeld.”
Tumi went public in 2012 and earlier this year Samsonite International SA bought the company for $1.8 billion. In 2015, Tumi earned $63 million on $548 million in sales. That compares with a loss of $16 million on $197 million in sales in 2009, the year Mr. Griffith joined the company.
Soon after the company’s sale closed on Aug. 1, Mr. Griffith set out on a Harley with his wife to tour the U.S. One of his stops was Madison, about 46 miles from Dodgeville, so that he could get a sense of what living in the area would be like, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Mr. Griffith, who also has a pilot’s license, is “an adventurer,” said Melanie Kusin, a vice chairman at the recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International . “He lives the lifestyle” epitomized by Lands’ End products, she said, though she didn’t know whether they were part of his wardrobe. The executive has lived in five countries and speaks French and German, according to Tumi’s website.
He will replace interim co-CEOs Joseph Boitano and James Gooch, the company’s chief merchandising officer and operating chief, respectively. Recruiters Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. handled the CEO hunt.