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首席執行官黯然下臺,誰來幫助Gap重振雄風

Kate Bowers 2019年11月17日

不計Old Navy的業績,Gap的運營利潤率從2016年銷售額的4%下降至2018年銷售額的2%。

午饭福利视频合集40今年9月,Gap公司的首席執行官亞特·佩克主持了分析師接待會,提出了將Old Navy品牌拋售給金融界的決定。如今,在該公司供職四年之后,佩克已經離開了公司,而留下的卻是銷售業績的下滑,Old Navy品牌何去何從的不確定性,以及一個大難題——誰能夠重振這個標志性的美國零售商。

晨星公司(Morningstar)的股票分析師大衛·斯瓦茨表示:“很明顯,這一切并不在計劃之中。對于不得不替換首席執行官的公司來說,圣誕節是一個糟糕的時機。”

午饭福利视频合集40在正常情況下,零售公司的董事會可能會先看看假日季的業績,甚至會等到人們使用可以提振1月業績的禮品卡之后,才會去評估高管的表現。

斯瓦茨說:“我認為他們可能不會看到圣誕奇跡的出現,而且他們當前就得做出重大調整。”

午饭福利视频合集40董事會主席、公司創始人多瑞斯和唐納德·費舍之子羅伯特·費舍將擔任臨時首席執行官。費舍家族是Gap最大的股東,持股比例達到了43%。35年以來,羅伯特·費舍一直參與公司的經營。

但65歲的費舍只不過是臨時領導者,而且他還得打理自己在Gap之外的投資。誰能夠取代佩克,并重新調整公司166億美元的品牌組合?Gap公司旗下品牌包括Gap、Old Navy、Banana Republic、Athleta和小型高端精品連鎖店Intermix。

午饭福利视频合集40公司發言人表示,Gap還未宣布佩克繼任人選選擇的時間表。但費舍在一篇新聞稿中說:“隨著董事會評估潛在的繼任者,公司的關注的是那些有著強大領導力的候選人,而且他應該有能力實現卓越的運營,從而提升效率、速度和盈利能力。”

午饭福利视频合集40然而,這類人并非是MKM Partners董事總經理洛克薩妮·梅耶心目中的人選。

午饭福利视频合集40她在一篇研究批注中寫道:“我們認為董事會尋找一位卓越的運營者擔任首席執行官的做法是錯誤的。”她向《財富》雜志透露,她認為公司需招聘一名商人,類似于熱衷于產品和客戶的Gap前首席執行官米基·德瑞克斯勒,而不是一名將大部分精力花在效率方面的“運營者”。

午饭福利视频合集40她寫道:“在品牌內涵缺失的情況下,在技術方面下氣力毫無意義。在我們看來,簡單來說,在Gap所處的后期階段,運營者可能會成為壓垮駱駝的稻草,除非其目標是剝離Athleta或關閉大多數店面。”

主打運動休閑理念的Athleta經營狀況良好,但它只占銷售業績的一小部分,約占166億美元的6%,而且公司并未披露該連鎖店的運營利潤率是多少。

午饭福利视频合集40僅同意匿名披露的高管獵頭與梅耶有著同樣的看法:Gap不應該再找一位專注于效率的運營者。他說,Gap需要一位“對客戶癡迷的企業領導者”。他們需要的是一位將客戶的穿著和購物方式看作是自己衣食住行的領導者。

這一點是Old Navy的總裁兼首席執行官索尼婭·辛格爾的最佳寫照。她安裝了一個流動字幕液晶屏,來顯示客戶對公司大廳的評價。盡管業界廣泛認為她是Gap首席執行官一職的最佳內部人選,但如果董事會執行剝離Old Navy的決定,那么辛格爾就無法擔任這一職務。而且即便Old Navy依然留在Gap公司,讓辛格爾離開這個令人愉悅的低價時尚品牌可能會帶來巨大的風險,因為Old Navy貢獻了Gap公司近一半的營收。2018年,Gap47%的營收來自于Old Navy。

那么誰才是Gap新首席執行官的合適人選。公司在20世紀90年代曾經在德瑞克斯勒的領導下一飛沖天,但自此之后在一定程度上一直在艱難度日。

午饭福利视频合集40一名獵頭表示,在同等規模公司工作過、擔任過類似職務的候選人可謂是鳳毛麟角,他說:“說到零售業,服裝領域尤為蕭瑟。很少有特種零售商擁有Gap這樣的規模,或擁有多個品牌。”

午饭福利视频合集40出于必要,Gap可能會從服裝行業之外的領域招人,例如藥店、醫院、美容或消費包裝品。他們可能會將目光投向星巴克、塔吉特和沃爾瑪的人才,或考慮嘗試把史蒂芬·拉森請回來,史蒂芬曾經帶領Old Navy 實現了連續12個季度的增長,曾經短暫擔任拉夫·勞倫的首席執行官。但其回來的可能性不大:拉森目前是PVH的總裁,旗下品牌包括CK、Tommy Hilfiger和Heritage Brands,而且是今年6月剛上任。

弗吉尼亞大學達頓商學院研究首席執行官繼任規劃的助理教授Yo-Ju Cheng表示,繼任時間表的缺失為Gap蒙上了不確定性的陰影。市場不知道該如何應對,而且從內部來講,一些高管可能開始準備其簡歷,尋找新機會。

午饭福利视频合集40然而她說,Gap董事會不能在人選方面操之過急。她指出,不合適的人選可能會導致“下旋式破壞以及計劃外首席執行官繼任問題的再度出現”。她提到了彭尼百貨這個案例。該公司自從2011年以來已經四次更換首席執行官——羅恩·強森、邁克·烏爾曼、馬文·艾利森和吉爾·索爾圖。首席執行官的頻繁更迭為該公司帶來了動蕩。

午饭福利视频合集40除了Athleta之外,Gap旗下的所有品牌都遇到了困境。Gap在宣布佩克離開公司的同一份聲明中表示,全公司同店可比銷售額(通常被認為是零售商健康度的關鍵指標)第三季度下滑了4%。即便是公司多年來盈利最高、最多產的品牌Old Navy也出現了連續第三次可比銷售額下滑的情況。總的來說,這些業績遠低于華爾街的預期。

午饭福利视频合集40Gap的執行副總裁兼首席財務官特瑞·利斯特斯托爾在聲明中說:“這是一個充滿挑戰的季度,主要品牌所面臨的產品和運營挑戰對業績產生了不利影響,而宏觀環境的影響和客流量的減少加劇了業績壓力。我們對公司的各大品牌及其背后才華橫溢的支持團隊充滿了信心,而且我們看到,一些關鍵領域的狀況也有所改善。然而,我們應該更加努力,利用我們已經投資開發的功能,并交付我們堅信這些品牌能夠交付的盈利性增長。”

公司投資者日公布的未經審計的數據顯示,不計Old Navy的業績,Gap的運營利潤率(按息稅前盈利調整后)從2016年銷售額的4%下降至2018年銷售額的2%。

午饭福利视频合集40鑒于今年客流量的下滑,晨星公司的斯瓦茨預計Gap公司的盈利會遭到進一步的侵蝕。他說:“當你看到這則[新聞]時會想,如果不計Old Navy,Gap公司還賺錢嗎?”

梅耶寫道,Gap“在首席執行官佩克的領導下基本上沒有什么起色。”他還說第三季度營收的下滑以及更低的第四季度預期可能是導致佩克離職的“最后一根稻草”。

那么問題來了,如果剝離了Old Navy,Gap還能活嗎?

午饭福利视频合集40到目前為止,公司依然堅持實施其計劃。

在佩克離職的聲明發布之后,Gap管理層已經首肯了其看法,即“Old Navy作為獨立公司可以斬獲更好的業績”。公司還向分析師透露,它將在11月21日的營收電話會議上公布有關該剝離交易的任何潛在變化及其時間表。(財富中文網)

譯者:馮豐

審校:夏林

In September, Gap Inc.’s CEO Art Peck hosted an analyst day to sell the decision to spin-off Old Navy to the financial community. Now, after four years at the helm, Peck is out, leaving declining sales, uncertainty about an Old Navy spin-off, and a big question about who can reimagine an iconic American retailer.

“Obviously this was not planned,” said David Swartz, equity analyst for Morningstar. “Christmas is a bad time to have to replace your CEO.”

Under normal circumstances, retail boards may wait for the holiday scorecard—and even the gift card redemptions that tend to boost January—before assessing an executive’s performance, but not this time.

“I think they could see no Christmas miracle was coming, and they had to make a major change right now,” Swartz said.

Robert J. Fisher, chairman of the board and son of founders Doris and Donald Fisher, will serve as interim CEO. The Fisher family is the Gap’s biggest shareholder, holding 43% of the stock; Robert Fisher has been involved with company operations for 35 years.

But Fisher, 65 years old and with investments outside Gap to manage, is just an interim leader. Who can replace Peck and tackle recalibrating the $16.6 billion company’s brand portfolio? Gap Inc. owns Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Intermix, a small chain of high-end boutiques.

A spokesperson for the company said it has not announced a timeline to replace Peck. But in a press release, Fisher said, “As the Board evaluates potential successors, our focus will be on strong leadership candidates with operational excellence to drive greater efficiency, speed, and profitability.”

That’s not the signal that Roxanne Meyer, managing director of MKM Partners, hoped for.

“We think the Board is making a mistake in searching for its next great operator as CEO,” she wrote in a research note. She confirmed to Fortune that she believes the company needs to recruit a merchant—someone like former Gap CEO Mickey Drexler, who was passionate about product and customers—rather than an “operator” who is mostly focused on efficiency.

“If brand DNA is not there, advancing technology is meaningless. In our opinion, simply put, in this late stage for GPS, an operator could be the final axe, unless the goal is to spin-off Athleta or shut the majority of stores,” she wrote.

Athleisure concept Athleta has done well, but it is a fraction of sales—roughly 6% of the $16.6 billion total—and the company has not disclosed what the chain’s operating margins are.

Executive recruiters, who spoke on the agreement of anonymity, agreed with Meyer—it’s a no on another efficiency-focused operator. Gap needs a “customer-obsessed enterprise leader,” one said. They want to see someone eat, sleep, and breathe what the customers are wearing and how they want to shop.

That best describes Sonia Syngal, president and CEO of Old Navy, who installed a chyron-streaming LED screen to showcase customer comments in the company’s main lobby. Though she was widely described as Gap Inc.’s best internal candidate for CEO, Syngal would not be available if the board proceeds with the decision to spin off Old Navy. And even if Old Navy remains under Gap Inc., it may be too risky to move Syngal off the cheap-and-cheerful fashion brand, which brings in nearly half of the company’s revenue. In 2018, Old Navy was responsible for 47% of Gap Inc.’s revenue.

午饭福利视频合集40So who could fit at Gap Inc., the company that soared in the 1990s under Drexler but has, to varying degrees, struggled ever since?

“When you look at retail, the air gets really thin in the apparel space,” noted one recruiter, pointing to a lack of candidates who’ve held similar roles at this scale. Few speciality retailers are as large as Gap or have multiple brands

午饭福利视频合集40Out of necessity, Gap may recruit outside the apparel industry from drugstore, hospitality, beauty, or consumer packaged goods. They may look for talent at Starbucks, Target, and Walmart or consider trying to woo back Stefan Larsson, who rang up 12 consecutive quarters of growth at Old Navy and then had a brief stint as CEO of Ralph Lauren. But odds on that seem slim: Larsson is currently president of PVH, which operates Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Heritage Brands, a role he took in June.

Yo-Jud Cheng, assistant professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business who studies CEO succession planning, said that the lack of an announced timeline on succession puts a cloud of uncertainty over Gap Inc. The market doesn’t know how to react, and internally, some executives may start readying their resumes and looking elsewhere.

But, she said, the Gap board shouldn’t rush someone into the role. A bad fit could lead to a “downward spiral of disruption and additional subsequent unplanned CEO successions,” she noted, citing J.C. Penney, which has had four CEOs since 2011—Ron Johnson, Mike Ullman, Marvin Ellison, and Jill Soltau—as an example of the turmoil created by a revolving door of CEOs.

With the exception of Athleta, Gap Inc. is struggling across its portfolio. In the same announcement as Peck’s departure, Gap Inc. said that comparable store sales—often cited as critical measure of a retailer’s health—were down 4% across the company for the third quarter. Even Old Navy, which has for years been the company’s most profitable and productive concept, recorded a comparable sales decline, its third in a row. Cumulatively, these results were far worse than Wall Street anticipated.

“This was a challenging quarter, as macro impacts and slower traffic further pressured results that have been hampered by product and operating challenges across key brands,” Teri List-Stoll, Gap Inc. EVP and CFO said in the announcement. “We have tremendous confidence in our brands and the talented organization that supports them, and we are seeing progress in some key areas. However, there is more work to do to leverage the capabilities we have invested in and deliver the profitable growth we know these brands are capable of delivering.”

午饭福利视频合集40Excluding Old Navy’s results, Gap Inc.’s operating margin (adjusted for earnings before interest and taxes) has been falling, from 4% percent of sales in 2016 to 2% of sales in 2018, according to unaudited figures presented at the company’s investor day.

Given drops in shopper traffic this year, Morningstar’s Swartz speculated that profits have likely eroded further. “You look at this [news] and think, is Gap, excluding Old Navy, making any money at all?” he said.

Gap “has largely failed to perform under CEO Peck’s watch,” wrote Meyer. He also said that the third quarter earnings miss and lowered fourth quarter expectations were likely “the final straw” on Peck’s tenure.

Then there's the other question—can Gap still afford to separate from Old Navy?

午饭福利视频合集40So far, the company is standing by its plan.

Following the announcement of Peck’s departure, Gap management has affirmed its belief that Old Navy can still perform better as a standalone company. The company also told analysts it will report any potential changes to the spin-off or its timing on its November 21 earnings call.

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