Sonnenberg in, Strickland out

David Strickland, Zellers' SVP marketing, has been shuffled out of the post, part of parent company HBC's ongoing move to centralize its operations. Hillary Stauth, director of corporate communications, says that the move 'has been coming for awhile.' Gord Sonnenberg, SVP marketing and merchandising of the Bay, who has been at the company since 1999, will now be responsible for the marketing of all HBC brands, which include the Bay, Zellers and Home Outfitters. Sonnenberg became the Bay's SVP marketing in March 2003 and was promoted to SVP, merchandise and marketing 21 months ago.

David Strickland, Zellers’ SVP marketing, has been shuffled out of the post, part of parent company HBC’s ongoing move to centralize its operations. Hillary Stauth, director of corporate communications, says that the move ‘has been coming for awhile.’ Gord Sonnenberg, SVP marketing and merchandising of the Bay, who has been at the company since 1999, will now be responsible for the marketing of all HBC brands, which include the Bay, Zellers and Home Outfitters. Sonnenberg became the Bay’s SVP marketing in March 2003 and was promoted to SVP, merchandise and marketing 21 months ago.

‘I’m surprised,’ said retail analyst Wendy Evans of Toronto-based Evans and Company when told of the shake-up. ‘A lot of people think very highly of [Strickland].’

However, Evans says that the move is consistent with HBC’s plans to maximize the marketing economies between its various brands. ‘It makes sense dealing with marketing from a central point of view,’ she says, adding that the shift provides a ‘united front to the consumer,’ with Zellers targeting lower end, The Bay higher end, and Home Outfitters a more specialized market. Examples of a more comprehensive marketing strategy are already evident in the HBC Rewards program and the Living Spree magazine, which goes to 500,000 shoppers of all banners.

The news follows shuffling in December when Thomas Haig, previously president and COO of Zellers, became president of HBC, while Marc Chouinard, previously president and COO of the Bay and Home Outfitters, became president of HBC merchandising group.

Meanwhile, the takeover talk that has been circling Canada’s oldest company since 2003 got a bit louder earlier this month with wealthy U.S. businessman Jerry Zucker’s purchase of 19.99% of the company’s stock. Under the company’s shareholder rights agreement, an investor owning more than 20% of the company’s stock must make a takeover bid. Zucker owns InterTech Group, based in South Carolina. U.S. retailer Target Corp., once tagged as a likely buyer, has been said to have stepped away from discussions.

Strickland joined Zellers in October 2000 and was responsible for all consumer-focused communication, advertising, direct mail, public relations and research for Zellers. Prior to joining HBC, he was VP business development and marketing at Enbridge Services. He’s also held senior marketing posts at Pizza Hut Canada and the Toronto Raptors.