Lands’ End Hires New CEO

Experts Say New Leadership May Not Bring New Direction For Company

Inside of Lands' End store
M. Spencer Green/AP Photo

Lands’ End has hired a new CEO after several years of turmoil at the company.

The Dodgeville-based clothing retailer announced that Jerome Griffith will take over the position in March. Griffith is the former CEO of Tumi, a suitcase manufacturer recently purchased by Samsonite.

Jerome Griffith. Richard Drew/AP Photo

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The previous CEO of Lands’ End, Federica Marchionni, stepped down in September after launching a new line of more fashion-forward clothing earlier this year. Many criticized the effort as being out-of-touch with the Lands’ End’s customer base.

But Hart Posen, associate professor of management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the desire for a new image was probably why Marchionni, and now Griffith, were hired.

“What you’ll notice in each of the CEO hirings over the last few years, and then firings, is in each case its a CEO from a sector of the industry that is more fashion-forward than is Lands’ End,” Posen said.

Posen said Lands’ End is moving toward an already crowded sector of the fashion industry, with many brands having a hard time differentiating their products from competitors.

“While the domain of their existing, sort of less fashion-forward customer base might be seen as a less trendy place to compete, it’s probably a less competitive sphere,” Posen said.

After launching the new Canvas by Lands’ End line in April, the company has already begun writing down many of the products.

Ultimately, Posen said reimagining Lands’ End as a more fashion-forward brand may not be a successful move for the company.

“I think they run a real risk of not succeeding in the new fashion-forward space, while at the same time losing ground among their traditional customers,” Posen said.

At the end of the third quarter, Land’s End sales were down almost 7 percent from the previous year.