Lowe’s Snags Marvin Ellison Away from JC Penney as New CEO

Marvin Ellison, who took over JC Penney after the turbulent Ron Johnson era but has overseen the business during its recent decline, has jumped ship to become the new CEO of home improvement firm Lowe’s as it tries to keep up with category leader Home Depot.

Ellison, who spent 10 years at Home Depot prior to joining JC Penney in 2014, lastly as executive vice president of U.S. stores, will bring experience in omnichannel transformation and help Lowe’s continue to innovate.

JC Penney has appointed a committee to temporarily helm the company, comprised of CFO Jeff Davis, Chief Customer Officer Joe McFarland, CIO and Chief Digital Officer Therace Risch and Executive Vice President of Supply Chain Mike Robbins.

Among other things, Ellison oversaw JC Penney’s maturation as an omnichannel player, as well as the introduction of appliances and toys as other categories were replaced or shrunk in an effort to spark growth. However, it has been stumbling badly of late; it announced layoffs this March in the wake of a disappointing holiday season, when competitors including Macy’s saw increased sales. It also has considerable debt and last year shuttered 140 of its 1,000 stores.

“Attracting Marvin is a great win for the entire Lowe’s team,” said Marshall O. Larsen, lead director of Lowe’s board in a release. “Marvin is an experienced retail CEO with extensive expertise in a complex omnichannel consumer-facing company. He also brings significant experience in the home improvement industry, with a proven track record of global operational excellence and driving results from both DIY and pro customers. Marvin joins Lowe’s at a critical inflection point as we work to enhance our competitive position and capitalize on solid project demand in an evolving consumer environment.”

“I am thrilled to take on the role as Lowe’s next president and CEO,” Ellison said in the release. “Working closely with Lowe’s board, management team and the more than 310,000 talented employees, I believe we will not just compete, but win in today’s complex retail environment. Together, we will leverage Lowe’s omnichannel capabilities to deliver the most simple and seamless customer experiences as we execute with purpose and put the customer first in everything we do.”

MCM Musings: As noted above, Ellison has a mixed track record at JC Penney, bringing a degree of stability and business transformation but not enough to avoid the personnel and store shrinkage that has plagued so much of retail. Home Depot has a considerable lead on Lowe’s in the home improvement category, setting the pace in overall sales, supply chain efficiency and omnichannel operations, so Ellison has his work cut out for him. Meanwhile his departure leaves a big gap at Penney at a difficult juncture; they’ll need to find a strong player who can keep it from taking on more water.

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