Corner Office Shifts: Hudson’s Bay, Lululemon, Roots and more

A round-up of senior-level executive changes you may have missed.
Corner Office

HBC concludes worldwide search for new Hudson’s Bay president

Hudson’s Bay Co. has looked outside of North America for its latest leadership appointment, naming Iain Nairn as president of its namesake department store in Canada. He replaces former Hudson’s Bay president Alison Coville, who left almost a year ago.

Nairn, a U.K. native, arrives at a challenging time for the 350-year-old retailer, which reported a third-quarter loss of $226 million. In an effort to turn itself around, HBC has cut under-performing brands from its stores, while adding new ones, such as L.L. Bean and Anthropologie. It has launched a line of private label beauty products, and has invested more heavily in its marketing. To support those efforts, it has added new talent to the marketing department, including an SVP of marketing and VP creative director.

Nairn was most recently CEO of Kikki.K, a Swedish stationery firm whose products are sold in nearly 150 stores worldwide. Before that, he spent a year-and-a-half as CEO of David Jones, an Australian department store, two years as CEO of Australian fashion retailer Country Road Group, and six years as CEO of Witchery Group (a brand within the Country Road portfolio).

Last week, a group led by HBC executive chairman Richard Baker increased its bid to take the company private. The new offer received the approval of shareholder Catalyst Capital Group, potentially bringing an end to the shareholder dispute that has stalled the privatization plans.

Lululemon appoints first chief brand officer

A former Uber and Nike exec will lead marketing and communications for Vancouver-based retailer Lululemon in the new role of chief brand officer.

Nikki Neuburger, who arrives from Uber Eats, where she served as global head of marketing for the last two years, steps into the role starting Jan. 20. According to the company, she will be “responsible for elevating the Lululemon brand and will lead the marketing, creative, communications and sustainability functions.”

She will arrive shortly after the departure of COO and EVP of International Stuart Haselden, who left for the CEO role at luggage startup Away on Jan 10. Meanwhile, Lululemon continues to pursue an aggressive growth strategy under CEO Calvin McDonald.

Before joining Uber, Neuburger spent 14 years at Nike, and was the global VP of Nike Running at the time of her departure. At Nike, she focused her efforts on product innovation, digital services and community membership, while overseeing the Nike Membership division. These are all areas which Lululemon has prioritized in its own corporate strategy.

As of August last year, Lululemon was also looking to hire a global brand director for its men’s business. Though the job posting has been taken down, Lululemon spokesperson Erin Hankinson did not specify whether it has been filled, saying only that the role and its duties are different than those of the chief brand officer.

More exec changes at Roots as sales continue to slump

Jim Gabel is out as CEO of Roots, with company exec Meghan Roach succeeding him on an interim basis. The apparel retailer made the announcement on Jan. 3, as its board of directors expressed the need for “renewed leadership to carry the company into its next phase” as it looks to enhance operational efficiency and fuel growth.

Gabel had served as president and CEO of Roots since 2016. He is a previous president of Adidas in Canada and of Reebok in North America.

Roach, a previous Roots board member, has been serving as interim CFO since August. (Mona Kennedy took over those duties this month.) As interim CFO, Roach was filling in for Jim Rudyk, who resigned in May 2019 but who continued serving in that capacity a few months longer. Those changes come on the heels of the departures of two chief merchandising officers last year, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

Following the release of its most recent quarterly earnings in December, Roots downgraded its sales expectations for its current fiscal year. The company’s stock has fallen roughly 85% since its peak in November 2018.

Jim Little to lead Ottawa Senators as CEO

Jim Little has entered a new kind of arena. The former EVP, CMO and chief culture officer at Shaw Communications has been appointed CEO of Senators Sports and Entertainment.

As CEO, Little will oversee the overall business strategy of the organization, with a focus on marketing and community relations. Prior to working at Shaw – he left in April 2018 amid leadership consolidation at the company – Little had held executive roles at RBC, Bell Canada and Bombardier Aerospace.

Anne Donohoe departs MEC, CEO Philippe Arrata leads marketing in the interim

Anne Donohoe has left Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) after leading the marketing department for nearly seven years, strategy has learned. The former CMO confirmed having exited the Vancouver-based outdoor goods retailer in October, but did not provide additional details when reached for comment.

Early in her tenure, Donohoe oversaw a major rebranding effort for the company that involved changing its name from Mountain Equipment Co-op to simply MEC and expanding into new product areas outside of hiking and cycling. More recently, the retailer has continued to embrace experiential retail, adding an interactive Toronto flagship last April, with plans to bring similar community-inspired features (like rock climbing walls and lounge areas) to its most popular location in Vancouver. Over the last year, it has worked to address the need for greater diversity and inclusion in its marketing.

A MEC spokesperson also confirmed the news of Donohoe’s departure, adding that it has yet to name a replacement. In the interim, marketing duties have fallen to Phillipe Arrata, who replaced David Labistour at the head of the company last July.