American Eagle Outfitters chooses Levi's veteran for chief
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Last month, Levi Strauss & Co. partnered in opening two concept stores in Arizona and California offering dozens of premium denim brands sold by "fashion savvy sales associates dubbed 'jean-iouses' " and fitting rooms with "Booty Cams" to let customers check out how they look from behind.
In the official announcement, Robert Hanson, global president of the Levi's brand, was quoted saying: "In today's world, denim is the ultimate and most versatile fashion option for every possible occasion and we know shoppers want choices when it comes to finding the best style for them."
That kind of attitude probably endeared Mr. Hanson to the board of American Eagle Outfitters, the South Side teen clothing retailer that considers denim its core product. Mr. Hanson, 48, will replace retiring Jim O'Donnell as CEO effective Jan. 30, the company announced this week.
The decision may quiet some of the speculation that American Eagle has been a potential takeover target, as it struggled with fashion issues and intense competition. Earlier this week, the retailer was one of several chains mentioned as potential acquisition fodder for Fast Retailing, the Japanese company that has brought its Uniqlo chain to the U.S.
For those looking for signals the retailer is back on track, American Eagle also announced earlier this month that third-quarter sales were up, with sales at stores open at least a year up 5 percent in the fall quarter. The company said earnings, set for Nov. 30 release, will be on the high-end of expectations.
Mr. Hanson's resume includes more than 20 years with Levi, where his positions included serving as president of the Americas/North America division and president/vice president of the Europe/Africa/Middle East operation. The iconic jean company has had its own struggles over the years as newer brands battled for shares of the business.
His hiring came as welcome news to analysts with Jefferies & Co. Inc., even if their enthusiasm had a caveat.
"We believe it could take some time for him to effect change given he is not taking over the reins for 2.5 months," Randal J. Konik and Taposh Bari wrote in an investment note. "Further, it will likely take some time for him to assess the need for other potential management changes and bring in new blood as he sees fit."
His predecessor, Mr. O'Donnell, has been with American Eagle since 2000 and CEO since 2003. During his tenure, the company branched out with aerie intimates stores and 77kids, both of which are growing, as well as the now-defunct Martin + Osa line targeting older customers. American Eagle also has begun moving into international markets.
Shares of American Eagle closed Wednesday at $13.97, up 2.42 percent.
First Published November 17, 2011 12:00 am