Talbots seeks new CEO as retailer struggles

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2011 11:18 AM
Talbots seeks new CEO as retailer struggles

Talbots Inc. is seeking a new chief executive as the women's clothing store struggles to turn around its business.

The Hingham, Mass., company said Monday that president and CEO Trudy Sullivan plans to retire as soon as a successor is named. It has created a search committee of independent board members and hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart. Sullivan will remain as president, CEO and a board member until Talbots finds a new chief.

Shares jumped 9 cents, nearly 6 percent, to $1.63 in late morning trading. Its stock has declined more than 80 percent this year.

Sullivan has served as CEO since August 2007, and was charged with trying to revive the company. She got rid of the men's and children's divisions and tried to breathe new life into the women's offerings.

But Talbots has had difficulty improving its business in the recession and its aftermath. The company has posted an annual loss in three of the past four years and is struggling to revive its brands and attract customers. It lost $22 million in its most recent quarter, its third loss in the past four quarters. A key retail revenue measure fell 4 percent in the August-October period and another 4 percent in November, the start of the crucial holiday shopping season.

As it announced the loss on Thursday, Talbots laid out plans for a turnaround, which included job cuts, closing stores, trimming employees' hours, suspending national advertising and TV campaigns for the short term and reducing inventory.

The cost-cutting measures are meant to save $50 million a year.

Talbots ran 551 stores in the U.S. and Canada at the third quarter's end.