Chico’s Adds Six to Upstairs Staff

Chico’s is beefing up its management team. The Fort Myers, FL-based women’s apparel retailer, which in addition to Chico’s includes White House/Black Market and Soma Intimates, on Jan. 23 announced several new hires—many raided from the ranks of its rivals.

Elaine L. Boltz is joining Chico’s as senior vice president in strategy and consumer research. Boltz, who most recently served as executive vice president, corporate strategy/chief marketing officer for Ann Taylor Corp., will be responsible for leading the company’s direct-to-consumer sales, as well as providing strategies on improving consumer insight and research.

Judd Harner was appointed senior vice president/chief marketing officer for the Chico’s brand. Harner had worked with Chico’s in his role as president/CEO of Desgrippes Gobe; he will lead the creative marketing team for the brand.

George M. Reider has been hired as senior vice president of White House/Black Market stores. Reider, who has worked for Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Ann Taylor, most recently served as president of retail for S. Schwab and Co.

Ronald L. Shulman was hired as senior vice president of Chico’s production and sourcing. Shulman, who had been vice president, sourcing for J.C. Penney Co., will be responsible for all aspects of sourcing and production for the brand.

And Evelyn Reynolds and Mary P. Tucker have been hired as vice presidents of Chico’s merchandising. Reynolds, who had been vice president, accessories, gifts, and spa at Coldwater Creek, will oversee the woven accessories businesses. Tucker who previously served as vice president, merchandise manager, knitwear division at Victoria’s Secret Direct, will be responsible for the knitwear business.

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Chico’s Closing Fitigues

In its fourth-quarter statement released March 6, women’s apparel merchant Chico’s FAS announced plans to close its Fitigues brand in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

“We are completely focused on our core Chico’s and White House/Black Market brands, as well as our emerging Soma brand,” CEO Scott Edmonds said in a statement. “We have decided the Fitigues brand did not meet our internal expectations and opportunity for rollout. Thus, we think our shareholders are better served by closing down this brand at this time.”

Chico’s had acquired Scottsdale, AZ-based Fitigues in January 2006 for a reported $10 million in cash. Fitigues sells casual clothes for men and children as well as women, in stores, via catalog, and online. Chico’s and White House/Black Market sell casual and dressier apparel exclusively for women.

Stuart Rose, managing director at Wellesley, MA-based investment bank Tully & Holland, agrees with the decision to fold the brand. “It seems as though they bought it prematurely, before they knew what they were going to do with it,” he says. “In general, it’s a small part of their business and probably not worth the distraction. Focusing on their core and larger concepts is probably a good thing.”

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Chico’s up sharply

Fort Myers, FL–Women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Chico’s FAS (NYSE: CHS) continues to roll. Net sales for the second quarter ended Aug. 3 increased 39.8% to a record $125.1 million, from $89.5 million compared with last year. Net income rose 48% to $16.4 million, compared with net income of $11.1 million last year. Net catalog and Internet sales increased 54%, to $7.1 million, compared with $4.6 million in sales last year. Comparable store sales for the company-owned stores increased 12% compared with last year.

“The second quarter again saw improvements in the gross and operating margins and, at the same time, we continued our significant investments in the future as we made major strides in our warehouse move to Atlanta,” said CEO Marvin Gralnick, in a statement. “The preliminary August results show a strong Fall offering which continues to build our Chico’s brand and customer base.” Next year, Chico’s will launch a new store concept, “Pazo,” which is aimed at women 25-34.

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