To replace Bloomingdale’s longtime CEO Tony Spring, who is taking over from Jeff Gennette as chief executive of Macy’s, the company on Tuesday said it’s found a department store veteran from overseas.
Olivier Bron, who will start some time in early November, most recently was CEO of Central Group’s Central and Robinson Department Stores in Thailand. Before that he was chief operating officer and director of strategy at Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
Bron, who is moving to New York City for the job, will lead Bloomingdale’s overall strategy, reporting to Spring, according to a Macy’s press release.
Macy’s search for someone to lead Bloomingdale’s extended not just beyond the company, but across the globe.
That’s a departure for both Macy’s stores. Spring has been at the company for nearly four decades, starting at Bloomingdale’s in 1987 as an executive trainee at a suburban New York store. Gennette has also been at the department store for 40 years.
Bron’s outsider status bodes well for Macy’s upscale banner, which is due for some innovation and new thinking, according to GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders.
“We are particularly pleased that Macy’s has opted to bring in outside talent as, in our view, the business, including Bloomingdale’s, is far too internally focused,” he said in emailed comments. “This leads to a lack of new ideas and initiatives and creates a somewhat unimaginative approach to retail.”
Yet there’s some risk, because Bloomingdale’s has long benefited from leaders who have institutional knowledge, according to Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Like most retailers, Bloomingdale’s is contending with sales slumps in a tough macroeconomic environment. Store comps fell 2.6% in its most recent quarter, though overall company-wide comps were down 7.3%.
“Some organizations become increasingly mediocre through inbred succession, i.e. Macy’s,” Cohen said by email. “Bloomingdale's, however, has consistently prospered from long-running leadership from Marvin Traub, then Michael Gould, and then Tony Spring, who was mentored by Michael Gould for quite a few years.”
With two decades of experience in the sector in various places, Bron could nudge Bloomingdale’s toward international expansion, though he has his work cut out for him at home, Saunders also said. The retailer runs a store in Dubai and another in Kuwait.
“While the brand currently has a presence in two Middle Eastern countries, there is scope for it to expand further – something that could help offset more sluggish growth at home,” Saunders said. “However, before that happens more effort is needed to make the brand distinct in a luxury market that has become more crowded with direct-to-consumer offerings from brands.”
In a statement, Spring himself, who takes his post at Macy’s next year, noted that Bron’s “extensive international retail career and deep knowledge of the luxury market will be invaluable as we pursue additional opportunities for growth.”
Once he arrives, Bron will be working for the person who has been in charge of Bloomingdale’s for years. To succeed, he needs freedom to make necessary changes, Saunders warned.
“This has traditionally been a problem for Macy’s, which tends to be very set in its ways. However, it is no good bringing in outside voices and being deaf to what they have to say,” he said.
This will be a test not only for Bloomingdale’s, but also for Macy’s more widely, according to Cohen.
“It’s anyone’s guess how Bloomingdale’s new CEO will be received by the organization, and then again how Bloomingdale’s will fare while its corporate parent attempts to resurrect itself from the dead-end strategy it has found itself in,” he said.