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USA Today has an interesting piece about Federica Marchionni, described as "the glamorous, Italian-born New Yorker, brought in from luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana" to be CEO of Lands' End after it was spun off from Sears, which followed a period of time during which its sales dropped precipitously.

What becomes clear from the story is that there is a culture clash taking place at Lands' End - some folks there think she is tough, visionary and persistent in her efforts to challenge the status quo, while others think she is divisive, polarizing, self-aggrandizing and imperiously reminiscent of the Meryl Streep character in The Devil Wears Prada.

Marchionni describes herself as tough, but fair, saying, "When people talk to me, I challenge them. They used not to be challenged. And I strive for the excellence."

The culture clash may in part be caused by the fact that English is Marchionni's second language, and there have been misunderstandings. But there also has been a geographic issue.

The story notes that "her employment agreement specified that she would not have to move to the southwestern Wisconsin city of 4,700 residents, nor would she be required to perform most of her duties there. Her principal workplace, the agreement said, would be in metropolitan New York ... But while Marchionni may not be a regular at Bob's Bitchin' BBQ downtown, there's no doubt who's in charge at the sprawling complex at the north edge of Dodgeville, where most of the company's roughly 4,000 Wisconsin employees work."

And, USA Today points out that Marchionni may be losing critical board support; James Gooch, the former CEO of RadioShack and DeMoulas supermarkets, has been named the company's new CFO/COO. Gooch, the story notes, is moving to Wisconsin.
KC's View:
I'm totally cool with the idea of bringing in outsides to shake up corporate cultures that have gotten stale, especially when those cultures are generating decreasing sales and profits.

That said ... I tend to be extremely skeptical about any retail move engineered by Fast Eddie Lampert, the Sears Holdings chairman who has driven both Sears and Kmart off a competitive cliff, and who still owns more that 53 percent of Lands' End stock. Fast Eddie reportedly loves the idea of turning Lands' End into more of a fashion brand, which is why he hired Marchionni.

But as they say, culture eats strategy for breakfast ... and Marchionni may just have been a poor cultural fit for Lands' End, regardless of whether the strategy made sense. Either way, the guess here is that Lands' End is likely to end up being yet another monument to how tone-deaf Lampert is.