Analyst: Talbots needs merchants, not number crunchers
Aug 07, 2012 (Menafn - Boston Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Talbots' new CEO has a solid track record in finance and operations, but some analysts say the long-struggling classic women's clothing retailer needs a talented merchant rather than a numbers man to complete a turnaround at the newly private company.
Michael Archbold, who served as the Vitamin Shoppe's president until June 30, took the helm at Hingham-based Talbots yesterday after the 65-year-old company's 391 million buyout by New York private equity firm Sycamore Partners.
"It's a terrific appointment," said Peter Benedict, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. who follows the Vitamin Shoppe, a North Bergen, N.J.,-based chain of 550 nutritional supplement stores that rang up 857 million in sales last year. "He's got talent across finance and operations. He is very well-respected on the street."
But Michael Tesler of Norwell's Retail Concepts questioned the appointment of Archbold along with former Kohl's executive Lizanne Kindler who was named president.
"It sounds like these are people who may be number crunchers and may be good at cutting people and economic efficiencies, but they're coming from two companies that haven't shown anything special or any sort of creative pop or wow," Tesler said. "A great idea to me would have been getting somebody high up at Lululemon (Athletica) or Pinkberry or Chipotle -- stores that are resonating with consumers today and seem to know how to excite people."
Archbold was not available for an interview. The 25-year retail veteran -- whose resume includes Saks Fifth Avenue and AutoZone -- said in a statement that Talbots has a "strong foundation and iconic reputation in women's retail."
"By restoring the company's focus on Talbots' classic styling, we will be able to reconnect with the company's historical customer base," he said.
During now-departed CEO Trudy Sullivan's tenure, Talbots had attempted to attract younger shoppers at the expense of the brand's core older customers. But five years of declining sales since her 2007 hiring precipitated the buyout.
Sycamore said it will keep Talbots' headquarters in Hingham. There was no immediate word of widespread job cuts from the 8,000 employees at its offices and 516 stores.
"The answer lies in the merchandising, not more cost-cutting," Tesler said. "They've been getting rid of people for years and trying to be more efficient."
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