Retail Industry: New Year, New CFO

Many retail companies rung in the new year with a new CFO. Or, at least, many retail companies wanted to.

Bloomberg reports that Neiman Marcus is seeking a new CFO, as are Kohl’s and Nordstrom and Whole Foods. And they’re not alone. Turns out, at least 45 retail companies have had their CFO exit in the past year. Looking back at 2015, according to research from Korn/Ferry International, about a fifth of American retailers added a new CFO, where other industries hover around 15 percent or less, with similar numbers in 2016.

The reason for such high turnover is, according to experts, shifting consumer behavior and the added demand for keeping up — especially with higher technology involved in the shopping experience. On top of that, the CFO job description looks different that it used to. Previously the position focused on growth, from announcing new stores to monitoring the stock price — a cyclical range of duties that also included inventory management and some M&A work as well.

While those duties are still at the core of the job, ecommerce has taken the job to another level. With Amazon becoming a large competitor to many businesses, customers are shopping online more, which means closing stores is an added duty for CFOs, as are turnaround plans, combining customer data and cutting the fat on the corporate side. This means that CFOs have to participate in the strategy and operations of some organizations, where they didn’t used to.

As a result, recruitment for these positions goes outside of retail. For example, the new CFO at Tiffany & Co. is Mark Erceg, who was brought over from a railroad company, while Ralph Lauren’s new CDO Jane Nielsen was over at PepsiCo for 15 years (she spent some time at Coach in between).

At the same time, there are unique CFOs like Carol Tomé at Home Depot who worked her way up through the company after joining it 1995 and taking different jobs along the way.

Wearing different hats is clearly taking on a new meaning when it comes to retail CFOs.



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