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Interesting news last week that Gap Inc., the trendsetting but moribund clothing retailer that has suffered through tough losses for some two years, has hired Paul Pressler to be its new CEO. He replaces Millard Drexler, who led Gap for two decades, creating a network of more than 4,200 units under the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy banners.

What made the hire so intriguing was that Pressler comes to the company from Walt Disney Co., where he ran the company’s theme park and resort division. While Pressler ran the Disney Stores division at one time, he’d been out of the consumer product business for some time. In fact, numerous stories about the hire pointed out that Pressler makes no bones about the fact that he is not a merchant, but rather is seen as having expertise in information technology, marketing and customer segmentation.

Pressler told The Wall Street Journal that he didn’t expect his lack of experience to be a hindrance. “In some ways, our Disney theme parks are just giant retail locations.”
KC's View:
This latter statement will come as no surprise to any parent who has tried to walk through Disney World or Disneyland with a kid.

We think the notion of hiring someone who has a little showbiz pizzazz to run Gap suggests all sorts of intriguing possibilities, for the same reasons that we were so enthusiastic by the hiring of Larry Johnston from GE to run Albertsons. People like Pressler and Johnston often walk in the door without preconceptions, as well as with a consumer’s appreciation for how these businesses are run. There are no sacred cows, and people like this are able to bring new kinds of energy to retailing businesses that may have grown staid and unadventurous.

More companies looking for CEOs ought to be considering such moves. We’re particularly impressed by the reports that Pressler intends to start his tenure by working in the stores.

Way to go.