Will a CEO without department store experience transform Hudson’s Bay business?
Helena Foulkes was instrumental in CVS’s decision in 2014 to walk away from $2 billion in annual tobacco sales as the drugstore reset itself as a provider of health services. Now, Ms. Foulkes finds herself in a business in which she has no previous experience, and her new employer — Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC) — is touting her as the CEO the company needs to transform its fortunes.
Ms. Foulkes, who most recently served as executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy, will be responsible for overseeing strategy and global operations for all of HBC’s businesses, including its namesake chain, Galeria Kaufhof in Germany, Galeria INNO in Belgium, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. She will join HBC on Feb. 19.
“Helena is a transformational leader who will invigorate the business with a new perspective as we position HBC for the future,” said Richard Baker, interim CEO and executive chairman of HBC. “Throughout her 25-year tenure in retail, she has a proven track record of making bold, strategic choices that, at their core, put the customer first and have proven enormously impactful to business success.”
Ms. Foulkes joins a business that has struggled to increase sales while dealing with a heavy debt load. In October, HBC sold its Lord & Taylor building in Manhattan as a means to reduce its debt. HBC, whose stock is sold on the Toronto Stock Exchange, has been pressured by an activist investor, Land & Buildings Investment Management, to take itself private. The investor believes that HBC is undervalued as publicly traded stock.
“HBC has an amazing portfolio of retail banners, valuable real estate and an innovative approach to M&A that give it the ability to win,” said Ms. Foulkes. “The future of retail will be defined by companies that think creatively about where the consumer and the world are headed. I look forward to working with this great team and listening deeply to them and to our partners to build upon strategies that capitalize on HBC’s physical and digital assets and deepen our core operating effectiveness.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Helena Foulkes be able to transform Hudson’s Bay Co.’s business? In what areas do you think she is most likely to focus her efforts?