Opportunities, Though Tough, Are There for Retail Execs who Lose their Jobs in Consolidations

Retail executives who have lost their jobs because of consolidations in the industry are finding a number of options — sometimes tough ones — to continue their careers.

With a generally healthy retail environment, they often get jobs with other retailers, though they may have to relocate to keep within the industry.

“Even though there is consolidation, growth in the industry far outweighs the shrinking number of retailers,” says Gerald Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Search Group. “There is a great deal of growth in specialty and big-box retailers. The career opportunities are excellent right now. We are conducting dozens of searches today for premier nationwide retailers.”

William Cody, managing director of the Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of Business, said private equity companies have been picking up a number of the retail executives who have been downsized

“As private equity continues to look at retail as place to invest, they found it is an industry that requires some experience, in particular if they are purchasing a retailer for a turnaround, said Cody.

He noted that Cerberus Capital hired Venessa Tagna, a former JCPenney executive to take over Mervyn’s business acquired from Target.

Cody also pointed to the hiring of Mickey Drexler, former chief executive officer of Gap, by the Texas Pacific Group to run the J Crew chain. Cody said Drexler has orchestrated a phenomenal turnaround of the brand and did an initial public offering of the company within the past two months.

In addition to being hired by other retailers and private equity companies, Cody said some displaced retail executives are setting up shop as consultants.

Cheryl Bridges, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University, said the current consolidation of retailers is part of a long-term trend.

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“The shakeout has been going on for 25 years. The talented people land on their feet. There is always an appetite in retailing industry for top talent,” said Bridges.

Mike Powell, owner of Marc-Allen Associates, a retail recruiter, said the letting go of executives by consolidated retailers is good news for businesses like his since it means more managers are in need of help in finding employment.

He noted if someone has been in the retail industry for a number of years or is middle-aged, it is going to be difficult to make a transition into a new industry.

For a retail executive in financial accounting, he said the chances of finding a job in a new industry are good. However, store managers have more limited options and may have to be retrained.

Gary Belastock, president of The Retail Network, said retail executives who have been let go and are not willing to relocate may have to take a step backward to get a new job.

He noted that when Filene’s in Boston closed its executive office, a lot of senior level people had to relocate. –Ted A. Knutson


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