Hudson’s Bay Co. named Iain Nairn as president of its namesake Canadian department-store chain, and he said one of his initial focuses will be to intensify efforts to lure millennials.
The role had been vacant since March when Alison Coville left the post. The appointment of Nairn, who most recently headed the Swedish design and stationery business kikki.K, took effect Jan. 12, according to a statement Monday. Chief Executive Officer Helena Foulkes said the company “took time to conduct a thorough, worldwide search to ensure we found the right person.”
In an interview, Nairn said he’ll be accelerating strategies already in place for the chain’s product mix, including reducing some brands and introducing others.
“There’s a whole kind of demographic that’s grown up completely digital, so making sure that we’re relevant to that demographic is important,” he said. “It’s a tough market out there, so there’s more work to be done for sure.”
Earlier this month, HBC minority shareholders including Catalyst Capital Group Inc. won a months-long battle to secure a higher price for the company, which also owns Saks Fifth Avenue, after Chairman Richard Baker and allies sweetened their take-private bid. That valued the struggling Canadian retailer at about $2 billion (US$1.5 billion). Catalyst, a Toronto-based private equity firm, agreed to support the new deal, but still has the right to terminate the agreement under certain circumstances. Shareholders plan to vote on the offer next month.
“The strategy remains the same whether it’s under public or private ownership,” Nairn said.
Originally from the U.K., he previously was CEO of David Jones, an Australian department-store chain. He has worked in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Asia and South Africa.
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HBC has worked to develop its digital business, and creating an app last year was a key effort, he said in the interview. “The future of retailing and brand management is around that sort of seamless digital omnichannel approach,” he said.
Nairn plans to visit all 89 stores in the next few months, talking to customers and stakeholders.
“They’re all profitable, they’re all contributing to the success of the business,” he said. “We have to think forward a number of years to understand what is going to be the needs of the consumer and what’s relevant in this click-and-collect, click-and- deliver world.”