Posts Tagged ‘susan gill’


Thursday, February 6th, 2014


The demanding retail environment requires executives with higher education. Back in the 1960’s retailers aggressively started recruiting college graduates. In the survey conducted by Plummer & Associates, a New Canaan, Connecticut executive search firm specializing in the retail industry shows 88% of the CEO’s of the top 100 retailers have college degrees. That compares favorably with the 93% of Fortune 500 (all industries) CEO’s. This 88% also compares favorably with the 2008 study of retailers conducted by Plummer & Associates which showed 85% had college degrees and the 2002 study which indicated 60% had college degrees.

Retailers now need to recruit executives with advanced degrees. Of the Fortune 500 CEO’s, 68% have advanced degrees (MA, MS, MBA, Ph.D., JD) while retail only has 35%. Retailers have not made much progress attracting/developing CEO’s with advanced degrees as our studies in 2002 and 2008 show 37% and 29% respectively.


                                                Retailers                                  Fortune

Study Year       2002    2008    2014                500

BA                    60%     85%     88%                 93%

MA+                 37%     29%     35%                 68% (MBA,MA,MS,JD,Phd,etc)

MBA                            23%     29%                 40%

JD                                6%       7%                  

Note: The supermarket industry has the largest population of CEO’s w/o a college degree. This is followed by a group of entrepreneurs who built significant businesses. (i.e. Michael Dell at Dell Computers). The retailers surveyed are the top 100 based upon sales volume and includes those who operate store, catalog, e-commerce, and/or direct sales channels. The Fortune 500 statistics are from US NEWS May 14, 2012.

Retailing is a big part of our economy and the landscape is constantly changing.  Through internal growth and consolidation, the retail industry is now composed of more large national and international chains versus the smaller regional chains which existed up until the 1980’s. As a result, the CEO’s of these large retailers need sophisticated tools to meet the challenges they will face in the near future.

Challenges the industry faces include:

An oversaturation of retail stores. There is too much retail space for our population and too many retailers (including online retailers) are dividing up the sales pie.

Retailers are increasingly international, adding to the complexities of managing the business.

Growing options for the consumer; not only are there retail stores, but also direct sales, catalog retailers, online retailers, and rapid delivery choices that compete for the store customer.

Marketing options are growing. Retailers must keep abreast of new technologies (CRM, Texting, Emails, Twitter, Instagram, Social Media, Direct Mail, Advertising (Print, Broadcast, on line), etc.    Retailers also need to build a brand strategy which is reflected in the facilities, the products carried, the employee service levels and the overall experience in the store. They also need to understand ‘omni-channel’ marketing to ensure that the customer’s brand expectations are consistently met whether through the retail store, the catalog operation, or the e-commerce operation. It is of utmost importance that retailers learn how to segment and target customers and fashion a product assortment, ambiance, and service to meet customer expectations.

Price competition is severe. All channels need to take costs out of their operations so they can be price competitive. Customers will pay more for a product if they perceive a difference in service which is of value to them, but this value needs to be justified by research.

Retailers with stores need to maximize four wall contribution. They will need to ‘right size’ operations. They need to maximize efficiencies of their supply chain operations.

Retailers with stores need to deal with ‘showrooming’. If online customers visit stores to evaluate products, these stores need to capture the sale immediately by having a competitive price and an environment to close the sale.

Retailers need to recruit and develop well-educated talent to make a difference. Talent is needed in merchandising, marketing, supply chain operations, and in the stores to meet customer expectations and to minimize costs.

Plummer & Associates is  a highly respected boutique executive search firm which specializes in recruiting senior level executives for the direct-to-consumer industry (retail, retail services, direct marketing and sales, e-commerce, catalog, food service, and businesses which sell to this industry segment). Based in New Canaan, Connecticut, Plummer & Associates conducts assignments in the U.S. and globally. For more information: or contact John Plummer: Phone:  (800) 603 9981.


Thursday, February 6th, 2014


Plummer & Associates recruits the SVP-Supply Chain and Operations for Fresh Direct, the successful NYC based online fresh food delivery operator serving   the New York City, New Jersey, Westchester County, Fairfield County (CT), and Philadelphia markets.

Ms. Connie Wendzicki joins Fresh Direct on January 8, 2014, and will work out of the Long Island City office and reports to Adrian Williams, EVP-Chief Operating Officer. Ms. Wendzicki most recently was with Alcoa as Director – Procurement Center of Excellence. She previously had been the Vice President – Supply Chain for the Reynolds Food Packaging for North America. She also had experience with She holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee.

Plummer & Associates is a highly respected boutique executive search firm serving the retail, ecommerce, food service, and retail services industry segments. Plummer & Associates is based in New Canaan, Connecticut and operates across the U.S. and globally. Our focus is on senior level executives.

Plummer & Associates Recruits President for Viva International Based in Somerville, New Jersey

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Plummer & Associates has completed the assignment to recruit the President for Viva International. Mr. Antonia Bortuzzo has accepted the role and will lead this Somerville, New Jersey eyewear manufacturer and distributor. Viva International Group is a global leader in high-quality, fashion eyewear. Its portfolio ranges from accessible luxury brands GANT by Michael Bastian and GUESS by Marciano, to fashion and lifestyle brands BONGO®, CANDIE’S®, Catherine Deneuve, GANT, GANT Rugger, GUESS, Harley-Davidson®, RAMPAGE®, SKECHERS and William Rast, and value names Viva, Magic Clip®, and Savvy.


Most recently, Antonio Bortuzzo was chief executive officer (CEO) of Alain Mikli International Group in Paris. Mikli designs, manufactures and distributes ophthalmic frames and

sunwear, and has retail stores worldwide. Previously, he was the CEO of fashion optical eyewear wholesaler Allison S.p.A. in Padova, Italy, and, from 2002-2007 he was the CEO and general manager of Marcolin Group, Belluno as well as CEO of Marcolin, U.S. in Scottsdale, Ariz.


Susan Gill and I are pleased we were once again able to bring such high caliber talent to Viva International and similar high growth organizations. Over the past few months we have recruited the General Manager – International for Viva International based in the U.K., the General Manager – Canada, and the Senior Vice President – Sales for Viva in the U.S. This demonstrates our abilities to conduct international search assignments for our clients.

Plummer & Associates Recruit CAO/CFO To Charming Charlie

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Plummer & Associates recruited the EVP-CAO/CFO to Charming Charlie, the high-growth retailer of women’s accessories based in Houston, Texas.

Mr. Thomas Fitzgerald joined and reports to Mr. Charlie Chanaratsopon , the Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Previously, Tom was the Chief Administrative Officer for Sears Canada based in Toronto. Earlier in his career he had been Chief Executive Officer for Lucky Brand Jeans, and Chief Operating Officer for Bath & Body Works.



Wednesday, April 24th, 2013


The pundits are having a good time poking fun at Ron Johnson’s expense. Yes, he made big mistakes. However, he was not the real problem.

Penney’s has been declining for years. The real blame belongs to the Board and the prior management. Over the years, J C Penney focused on the same customer and followed those customers as they grew older; management failed to attract younger customer.  Everyone in retail knows the younger customers are the profitable customers. Only during the brief tenure of Allen Questrom and Vanessa Castagna did J C Penney do the right things.

I always believed the probability of success in Ron’s strategy to take JCP upscale and simultaneously attract a younger customer was unlikely. As retailers switch from one customer base to another, the retailer usually first finds the bottom of the Grand Canyon. That is where JCP is today. The old customers do not like what they see and the new customers do not like shopping with the old customers. In my mind, investors cannot afford to take the time required to successfully support a retail turnaround.

I have seen several retailers attempt to make customer base changes. Some that come to mind are:

  1.       Abraham & Straus Department Stores – Brooklyn, New York
  2.       Sears – The Softer Side
  3.       Kmart- The New Kmart
  4.       Mervyn’s – Mervyn’s California

All were colossal failures. On the other hand, Target did successfully make a  change but it was done gradually and over several years. The customer base change was also less significant.

The essence of this story is that the Board and management need to keep their eyes focused on the long-term health of the company versus short-term quarterly tactics. The truth is that a merchant prince can seldom pull off a successful major change in customer base.


Saturday, January 14th, 2012

I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Premier for Red Tails, the new movie by George Lucas.

This movie about the Tuskegee Airmen in World War 2 is American history at its finest!  It is also an enjoyable movie.

I have been lucky to have known George since childhood and have always been proud of his accomplishments. This movie and the related show on the History Channel is his giveback to our society. My heart pitter pats.



Friday, December 9th, 2011


A T STEWART & COMPANY – NYC – (stereoview card – prior to postcards)


Alexander Turney Stewart, an Irish immigrant, opened his dry goods store in 1823. The first store was located at 283 Broadway. The business became so successful he opened a second, much larger store on Broadway between Chambers and Reade Streets. This new store was, in fact, the largest in New York City. It was known as the Marble Palace as the building was clad in Tuckahoe marble. Lord & Taylor which operated out of a small store in Greenwich Village was its only competitor. The store sold imported European merchandise. Fashion shows were held on the second floor in the Ladies Parlor renowned for its large mirrors. The store became well known for its unique design and for the merchandise carried. This store is today known as the first department store in the U.S.

In 1860, Mr. Stewart built a new store further uptown on Broadway between 9th and 10th Streets which opened in 1862. This store was still larger and much closer to where the other stores had moved on the Ladies Mile (Macy’s, B. Altman, Lord & Taylor). Cast iron construction allowed the store to be more open and provided for large windows on the street level to showcase merchandise. The building was called the Iron Palace.

Besides being known as the creator of the first department store in the U.S., Mr. Stewart also became known for creating his own mills and sewing factories to produce product for his store. He gained more fame for laying out the plan for Garden City on Long Island.

Alexander Stewart died in 1876. His company continued in business until 1882 when it became Hilton, Hughes & Co run by associates of Mr. Stewart. Unfortunately, the new company failed and closed in August, 1896. The next month the store was acquired by Wannamaker’s from Philadelphia.

Wanamaker’s first building at 280 Broadway later became the headquarters for the New York Sun, the publisher of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”. The building is now owned by the City of New York. The Iron Palace burned down in a massive fire in the 1950’s when it operated as a John Wannamaker store.

The first department store in the world is the Au Bon Marche in Paris, France. Although A. T. Stewart’s first store opened before Au Bon Marche, his first store was small and was not considered a department store in terms of organization.

Although there are many block prints of the A. T. Stewart store, there are few postcards. The store existed before postcards became legal with the U.S. Postal Service.

A T Stewart Home – Fifth Avenue – NYC


Friday, December 9th, 2011


For years, the Arnold Constable & Company was known as the “oldest department store” in America. It served the ‘carriage trade’ of New York. Famous customers included the Astor’s, Vanderbilt’s, Roosevelt’s, and Mary Todd Lincoln. The company was known for bring the best French fashion to NYC.


The company was started in 1825 by Mr. Aaron Arnold, an immigrant from the Isle of Wright. Before he opened his store he had been working with James Hearn, founder of Hearn’s. Mr. Arnold’s first store was located at the corner of Canal and Mercer Streets, then the center for retail. In 1837, a vendor, James Constable, married Aaron’s daughter and then became a partner in the firm. That is when the name was changed to Arnold Constable.


In 1868 Arnold Constable opened a new store at Broadway and Nineteenth Streets in NYC. This put the store in the middle the new “Ladies’ Mile” shopping district. It was known as “the Palace of Trade”.


In 1914 the company incorporated with reported capital of $2.5m. That same year the company leased the former home of Frederick W. Vanderbilt and started plans for building a new store on Fifth Avenue at 40th Street. At this time it was clear that the shopping district was moving “uptown”.


In 1925, Arnold Constable merged with Stewart & Company which led to the expansion into the suburbs. The first suburban store opened in 1937 in New Rochelle, NY. Later, stores opened in Hempstead, Manhasset, and New Jersey.


In the 1960’s, the carriage trade retailer of New York started to face economic troubles. As sales declined, expenses were rising significantly. The company started closing the unprofitable suburban stores. In 1975, the store on Fifth Avenue closed. After 150 years, the Arnold Constable name disappeared. The company did continue to manage its no-name stores, a small specialty retailer offering men’s and women’s separates. This was later sold in the 1990’s to YM, Inc, a Canadian retail chain.


What happened????   Arnold Constable did not adjust to the newer times and merchandising systems. It continued to cater to a dying “carriage trade” customer and did not attract the younger customers.


I visited Arnold Constable in 1973 on a business trip to NYC. I was interested in comparing it to Bullock’s Wilshire and I. Magnin. To me it was clear that Arnold Constable did not know it was hostile to the younger customer. The store also looked dowdy and was not well merchandised. I was not surprised when the company closed a year later.


Monday, December 5th, 2011

Plummer & Associates recruited Mr. Mark Poston as Chief Executive Officer for Resource Real Estate, one of the largest owner/operator of residential apartment complexes in the U.S. Mr. Poston brings extensive hospitality experience to Resource Real Estate from Bennigan’s, Yum Brands, and ARAMARK. He will lead a team responsible for the management of 65 major properties and future growth. He will be based out of the company’s Philadelphia headquarters. Mark Poston is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.


Monday, December 5th, 2011


Plummer & Associates recruited Mr. Giovanni Pesce as SVP-International Sales for Viva Optique, a division of HVHC. Mr. Pesce brings extensive international experience in the eyewear industry. He will be based in Italy and his role will be to develop business in Europe, the Middle East, India, and in the Far East. He joined the company in December, 2011.