NEW YORK ― Sears Holdings Corp. named former Brookstone Inc. CEO Ron Boire as its chief merchandising officer as it tries to tackle criticism that it did not have enough executives with retail experience to turn around the struggling chain.
The news came on Tuesday, a week after the operator of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain posted disappointing holiday sales numbers, and decided to close as many as 120 stores.
In his new role, Boire, 50, will lead merchandising for both the Sears and Kmart brands.
“We are in the midst of a transformation of our business, from top to bottom…,” Sears CEO Lou D’Ambrosio said in a statement.
Boire has a decent track record in the retail arena. He was hired in October 2009 by private equity owners Osim International, J.W. Childs, and Temasek Holdings to turn around Brookstone, which was bleeding sales during the recession.
Brookstone, originally a catalog company, now sells gifts and gadgets mainly to men through about 300 stores in some 40 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Prior to Brookstone, Boire served as president, U.S. Toys, North America for Toys R Us from 2006 to 2009, where he was in charge of merchandising, marketing and operations. He has also worked as a global merchandise manager for Best Buy, and in an array of senior roles at Sony Electronics Inc.
Turnaround experts have told Reuters that hiring executives with more retail experience will be key to turning around Sears, which has seen sales shrink every year since 2005, when hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert formed the company by combining two of the most iconic American chains in an $11 billion deal.
“I understand the company’s challenges, but I am more persuaded by the company’s opportunities and strengths,” Boire said about his new assignment at Sears.
In an email to Reuters, Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite confirmed that Boire was filling a newly created post. The last time someone held that title at Sears was before the merger.
In a separate statement, Brookstone said Jackson Tai, the chairman of its board, will also serve as interim president and CEO while it looks for a permanent replacement for Boire.