Press and News

By Lindsey Rupp

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), a former purveyor of safari gear that was reborn as a teen-clothing chain, is searching for its next incarnation. It will provide you an opportunity to careers in fashion
The company, which announced the departure of longtime Chief Executive Officer Mike Jeffries yesterday, needs a successor who can appeal to today’s teens in an industry suffering from e-commerce competition and shrinking foot traffic. And it will have to emerge from the shadow of a man who has steered the brand for more than two decades.
“He actually was the brand,” said Terre Simpson, president of New York-based executive-search firm Simpson Associates. “Now it’s almost as if they need retail psychotherapy to determine what the brand direction should be.”
Jeffries, 70, stepped down as CEO after the strategies that led to Abercrombie’s success in the1990s failed to resonate with current shoppers. The chain’s shirtless models, booming music and conspicuous logos have lost their appeal, replaced by a desire for fast fashion and a lower-key selling style.

By David Moin

New York – Oilily, a children’s and women’s wear collection out of the Netherlands with a bohemian chic appeal but a rather small following, has a new president of its U.S. operations, Paul Lechlinski.
His mission will be to raise the brand’s profile in the States, open additional stores and build up the women’s portion of the business. In the U.S., Oilily has been operating for 15 years and has 38 stores. However, the brand is not widely known,
though it has an upscale audience, especially for its spirited, high-end, children’s wear.
“With his background in major brands, Paul will be very instrumental in raising awareness of Oilily,” said Terre Simpson of Simpson Associates, who conducted the search for the new president. “Oilily offers really imaginative, artistic, one-of-a-kind product, but most people don’t know the products.”
By Jennifer Waters

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) – Help Wanted: Veteran retail executive who will lead a turnaround at one of the nation’s largest apparel makers. Must have flair for fashion, be brilliant in tapping trends before they happen, and understand consumers’ changing tastes. Ability to start right away a plus.
So begins the hard part for Gap Inc.
Monday’s announcement that Chief Executive Paul Pressler and his board of directors had “mutually agreed” on his departure was widely expected and may have well have been just a taste of what awaits the San Francisco retailer as it seeks to dig out from years of flagging fortunes.

“This is a tough search,” said Terre Simpson, a 20-year firm veteran who runs Simpson Associates, an executive recruitment firm in New York.

By Simpson’s thinking, for example, Pressler, who led Disney’s theme parks before going to Gap, was intelligent enough and had the management experience to be a CEO. But he lacked what would be considered the equivalent of retail’s street smarts: merchandising know-how.

“This is an industry that’s not predicated on a high level of education,” Simpson said. “It’s predicated on the inherent skill and gift of being a good merchant. That’s not simply a learned tool.”

By David Moin

However, Terre Simpson, president of Simpson Associates executive search consultants said, “Holman-Rao combines a very good taste level and the ability to manage people well. That’s just what The Limited needs. Someone with the ability to put together a cohesive team.”
By Heather Cole

The yearlong sales slump at May Department Stores Co. is fueling speculation that President and Chief Executive Eugene Kahn soon may be replaced.
Kahn, 53, has faced criticism as same-store sales declined for the last year at May. A high profile lawsuit by Bebe Stores Inc.
against May for trademark infringement for its proprietary brand “be” also hasn’t helped. Despite a poor economy, some department store chains, such as J.C. Penney Co. and Kohl’s, have been doing well, so May’s poor sales likely are management-related, said Terre Simpson head of the New York-based retail executive search firm Simpson Associates.
“I think Kahn has a different way of doing business and it has not worked as effectively. The proof in the pudding is in the results,” Simpson said. She said David Farrell, Kahn’s predecessor, who retired in 1998, ran a much tighter ship with better results. “He numerically, strategically managed the business and it was very profitable when it was run that way.”
Another possibility for internal selection would be presidents of divisions that have been profitable, Simpson said. Department store companies don’t usually pick from the ranks of vice presidents, she said. “The question becomes, is there a president in one of the divisions who has the capability to run the whole business?”
“I think there has been a crisis for the last couple of years in terms of finding the talent necessary to change some of these businesses,” Simpson said.

By Lisa Lockwood with contributions from Vicki M. Young

NEW YORK – Will Liz Claiborne Inc. go outside or in to replace its chairman and chief executive officer, Paul Charron?
Terre Simpson, president of Simpson Associates, a New York-based executive search firm, believes that Charron’s successor will probably come from outside the industry“I think they’ll possibly have to go outside on the basis of the narrowing leads in the industry in terms of the caliber and needs necessary to run that business. There’s no one of that context to pull from the business,” she said, citing just a handful of competitors such as Jones’ Peter Boneparth. “I think they’ll go to a consumer packaged firm or possibly the entertainment business.”
When pressed for executives who could be qualified within the business, she cited Farah, Gromek and Vanessa Castagna, former chairman and ceo of J.C. Penney stores, catalogue and Internet, who’s now senior member of the operations team at Cerberus Capital Management and executive chair of Mervyn’s. “I also hear wonderful things about [Claiborne’s] Trudy Sullivan,” she said.
Hire Ground
Fashion recruiter Terre Simpson elevates careers.

Don’t call Terre Simpson a headhunter. She’s a fashion headhunter, thank you very much, which means the shoes she’s hired to fill often bear designer labels (an important distinction, indeed). A former buyer in accessories and sportswear for the May Company Corporation, she decided to use her firsthand industry know-how to launch the New York City-based search firm Simpson Associates in 1984. Since then, her revenues have increased an average of 30 percent each year, with companies
such as Calvin Klein, The Limited, Delia’s, and Abercrombie & Fitch signing on to let Simpson do what she does best—bring them fashion’s brightest stars. Here, she shares ladder-climbing insights for would-be ascendants—and says that in the
fashion world, wearing a tight skirt and a pair of Jimmy Choo’s might actually aid your arduous climb.
Do companies ask you to recruit talent from the competitors?
They wouldn’t tell me to go to a specific rival company, but they make it clear that they’re looking for someone in a similar market. If I’m looking to fill a wholesale position, for example, I would directly to a similar manufacturer and find the person that handles the exact same accounts my client wants.
Any tips for a would-be buyer? To have a strong retail career, you cannot start in a corporate office. There are just too many limitations. You have to start in
an actual store and get the hands-on training. If you’re not willing to do this, you’re going to short-circuit your career, because in a store there are so many more parameters by which you can grow. Also, get yourself a four-year degree, preferably in business. Retailers are doing a lot of on-campus recruiting right now, and they’re going after some really high-profile schools to get trainees.
What about tips for breaking into design or production? The big-name manufacturers want design and production people who’ve had a traditional background at a comparable company—not someone who was a designer for him or herself. If you want to get with the larger houses, I would suggest
approaching them directly. You see, wholesalers don’t do a lot of college recruiting, and many of them don’t even have human resources departments. Also, they’ll consider unusual and/or creative backgrounds, but they also require some sort of
Is it possible to “switch tracks” in fashion and go from the retail side to the manufacturing side? Some of the more sophisticated manufacturers actually like to hire people that were originally retailers, and it’s a very good idea. A very clear example of that is Liz Claiborne. They’ve been able to take a retailer that doesn’t have a following, for instance, and transpose their retail management skills into the wholesale side. Smaller companies can’t typically afford to do that, though, because they want somebody who already has accounts.
In general, what qualities do fashion companies look for in an employee?
Every company I work with says they want someone who’s extremely motivated, who can think independently and who has good management skills, but those qualities have to be in a certain package. There’s a certain look you have to have, a
certain demeanor you have to have, and it differs from company to company. Gucci’s idea of the “package” is different than Target’s. Not better, just different.

By Mark Del Franco

Mailers face worker shortages at all levels.
For San Jose, CA-based telephony products cataloger Hello Direct, being located in Silicon Valley has its advantages. For one, it’s the center of the Internet universe; it’s also a desirable place to live. But the $80 million cataloger must also compete for top engineering talent with Internet behemoths such as hardware provider
Cisco Systems and computer software/manufacturers Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard. Since half of Hello Direct’s products are proprietary and highly technical, recruiting the best and brightest engineers is crucial to the company’s long-term success. “In the old days, candidates were line up outside your door,” says director of marketing Denny Waldera. “Those days are over.” Terre Simpson, president/founder of New York-based direct marketing recruiter Simpson & Associates says that catalogers generally offer more money up front. The dot-coms, ironically, promise more on the back-end in the way of stock options and bonuses. “Suppose a candidate has offers from both a catalog company and a dot-com,” she says. “The cataloger offers $200,000 for a senior-level marketing position. The dot-com offers $150,000, but includes ‘silent share,’ so that if the company goes public, the shares push the compensation well past $200,000. It’s a risk that many candidates are willing to take.”

By Evan Clark

THE PAY AND the perks at the top are good – very good.

Sixty-seven fashion executives logged compensation of more than $5 million last year, according to a WWD analysis of publicly traded brands and retailers in the U.S.
A lot of that compensation is just paper, though – stock and option grants made up the majority of many executives’ pay and pushed total compensation for the group to $880.6 million. While that’s a large number by any measure, it completely depends on how much the 67 executives earn from cashing in all those options and grants. It could be less.
“None of them have to work for money,” said Terre Simpson, president of search firm Simpson Associates. “It’s the drive for success and accomplishment. They work because of the challenge; it’s not really the compensation, that’s the secondary result of their drive to be challenged.
And while it’s still an executive landscape dominated by men – there are only six women among the top 67 paid fashion executives, including Jackwayn Nemerov, executive vice president of Ralph Lauren Corp., and Carol Meyrowitz, ceo of The TJX Cos. Inc. – there are hopes that the gender gap will narrow, Simpson said.
“In order to be a CEO, you usually are in your 40s or older. Those generations, the women and men were treated differently growing up,” she said. “When I was brought up, girls had to behave. You weren’t allowed to take chances. It was a different world.” Simpson said women coming through the ranks today could be better represented in the industry’s executive ranks.

Share by: