business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has a story in which it notes that "on Monday, Gap Inc. replaced Chief Executive Sonia Syngal after more than two years on the job. On Tuesday, Dollar General Corp. said its longtime CEO would step down. Those announcements follow recent exits of the CEOs at companies such as Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., athletic-equipment merchant Under Armour Inc. and luxury-consignment seller The RealReal Inc.

So what's up with this?

The story suggests that some of it is timing - the pandemic delayed a number of companies' succession plans, and boards of directors are just now catching up with changes they planned to make earlier.  But in addition, the Journal writes, there are changes in the marketplace that require different kinds of skills and approaches, which is forcing some companies to change the players in their c-suites.

And, there are some companies that "have struggled for years to reinvent themselves, including Gap and Bed Bath & Beyond. Shares of both companies have tumbled in recent years. Both of them replaced their CEOs with board members while they are looking for new leadership."

The Journal writes that "in the past, retail executives typically reached the top job through two paths: They were either great merchants, with a canny ability to anticipate popular styles and new trends, or skilled operators, with a mastery of the systems necessary to keep stores running smoothly. The shift to online shopping further complicated the job, requiring an understanding of technology and data. And other factors have come into play, including a push for making products in a more sustainable way … The retail sector is under pressure to innovate and operate faster, and executives are also managing greater demands from customers and shareholders for attention to environmental, social and governance issues, said Susan Hart, who leads recruiter Spencer Stuart’s retail, apparel and luxury goods practice."

KC's View:

I don't think there is any question that the world in which retail exists today is significantly different than just a few years ago - new contexts and new challenges that will in many cases require new leadership.  We'll probably see a lot more of these changes going forward.