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RUSSELL REYNOLDS ASSOCIATES: STRONGER CHRISTMAS SALES WON'T DAMPEN DEMAND FOR 'TURNAROUND' TALENT AT RETAIL/APPAREL COMPANIES

 SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Even if stronger-than- expected fourth quarter sales materialize for retail/apparel companies, the demand for executives who can manage turnarounds, lead early-stage companies through major rollouts and provide professional marketing expertise will remain high, according to Lisa Maibach and Melanie Kusin, two executive recruiters specializing in apparel, retail and consumer searches.
 "There has never been another period in modern times when retail/apparel companies have undergone more rapid change," said Maibach, a managing director at the San Francisco office of Russell Reynolds Associates. "The key to survival is the ability to respond quickly and effectively. Many perplexing consumer attitudes thought to be simply a temporary response to economic downturn are more likely a permanent and 'structural' change in American consumer behavior, and even the most successful companies need to adjust strategically."
 Maibach and Kusin, a managing director in the New York office of Russell Reynolds Associates, serve a client list that includes top apparel and retail clients in entertainment, discount, hard goods and fashion sectors. They say recent searches have fallen into three categories:
 -- Turnaround executives who can help companies retool for today's changing consumer environment.
 -- Professional managers to replace entrepreneurial founders and help fledgling companies expand both domestically and internationally.
 -- Strong professional marketers -- often outsiders -- to introduce competitive tactics that will sharpen and differentiate more progressive retailers.
 "Even companies at the top of their categories in the 80s now may be struggling to find the right formula for today," said Kusin. "The demand for executives with turnaround experience -- the ability to identify what must be done and make it happen quickly -- shows no signs of slowing. In fact, we think it will a major emphasis in our retail/apparel searches for 1993."
 A growing number of search assignments at Russell Reynolds Associates also are coming from rapidly expanding specialty retail and apparel companies that have outgrown their entrepreneurial founders. Maibach said California is especially fertile ground for such start-ups -- and for recruiting assignments to find professional managers as these companies successfully expand.
 "Sometimes, it's a case of the founder wanting time for a life of his or her own," Maibach said. "Often, it becomes obvious to founder and investors alike that a more capable and experienced management team will be required to maximize a company's growth potential."
 In both transition and turnaround situations, Maibach says clients are seeking not only the necessary financial and technical skills, but "executives who can set an example of hands-on involvement and a sense of urgency. They need to be able to motivate employees, and at the same time, establish or reestablish credibility with customers, vendors, investors and lenders," she said. "That can make for challenging search assignments."
 Retailers also are turning -- often for the first time -- to top- level marketing executives to create better strategic focus, said Kusin.
 "Just this past year, we completed senior level marketing executive searches for two leaders in their retail categories," said Kusin. "Though both have been phenomenally successful, they recognized the need for more strategic marketing approaches that incorporate a coordinated mix of advertising, promotion, visual merchandising and new product planning.
 "In one case, the company created a new position for a vice president-marketing, assigned to coordinate and upgrade advertising, catalogue programs and to develop new promotion programs that will create more year-around excitement for its products. They also wanted to develop new products to take advantage of changing consumer tastes and trends. The other client's goal was to set itself apart in a highly saturated, almost-commodity retailing niche."
 One element common to nearly all recent retail/apparel searches conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates is the demand for international expertise.
 "In all cases, the ability to think and act internationally is becoming critically important to this industry," Kusin said. "Our search horizon has expanded to include executives from all over the world. In fact, American retailers and brand manufacturers are somewhat behind the curve when it comes to penetrating markets outside the United States. We are finding European and Asian executives can bring a new perspective -- as well as open many doors for U.S. firms."
 One example cited was a California-based apparel company's search for a new chief executive officer to lead the company's aggressive international expansion and acquisition effort. Kusin and Maibach helped fill the position with an executive from a European fashion conglomerate who had broad-based marketing and product introduction experience.
 "The candidate's close familiarity with the international fashion retailing world was an important factor in his selection for the position," said Kusin.
 Russell Reynolds Associates is one of the largest executive search firms in the world. In the past 18 months, the company has been engaged for 200 searches in the retail/apparel field.
 -0- 12/22/92
 /CONTACT: Lisa Maibach, 415-392-3130, or Melanie Kusin, 212-351-2000, both of Russell Reynolds Associates; or Hatti Hamlin of The Montgomery Group, 415-391-3040, for Russell Reynolds/


CO: Russell Reynolds Associates ST: California, New York IN: REA SU:

SM -- NYYFNS4 -- 9023 12/22/92 06:49 EST
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Date:Dec 22, 1992
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