Why Lands’ End Ousted Its Change Agent

by MR Magazine Staff

It was starting to feel a lot like Christmas in Lands’ End’s private New York City showroom, though it was only July 27th. Speaking over softly playing Christmas carols, Federica Marchionni, the company’s CEO of a year-and-a-half, was giving me an early preview of the company’s new holiday offerings. They included well-crafted cashmere throws, monogrammed pajamas, fine glassware, and even artisanal cheese collections for $50. Then we moved to another room, where Marchionni showed off the new Canvas by Lands’ End line, featuring a $600 men’s jacket and brocade dresses. They were all lovely. They were also bewilderingly, preciously off-brand for the 53-year old, sensible-to–the-point-of-dowdy, all-American retailer, based in small-town Dodgeville, Wisc. But creating a fancier alter ego was exactly what Marchionni, a stylish 44-year-old who favored tailored white suits and stilettos, was brought in to do back in February 2015. Lands’ End had been through three CEOs in the previous decade (she was the 6th since 2002) and suffered from an affiliation with its former parent Sears, aging customers and a sluggish retail market. The $1.4 billion company needed a Hail Mary. And so its board had reached way, way out of the box, taking a chance on the Italian-born Marchionni—who was becoming a CEO for the first time and was a veteran of luxury businesses Dolce & Gabbana and Ferrari. See more at Fortune.