Former CFO of luxury retailer Neiman Marcus steps into the airport space

WHSmith, a global retailer of news, books and convenience goods, has hired former chief financial officer of luxury department store player Neiman Marcus Kevin Gotthard as CFO
financial director
be first North American company including travel retailers Marshall Retail Group (MRG) and InMotion Entertainment Group, a recent entrant at British airports.

Gotthard spent three and a half years at Neiman Marcus Group, owner of the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman brand plus Last Call and Horchow, which is a minority stake of the online fashion technology platform Farfetch since May 2022
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through a $200 million investment. Gotthard’s last year with the group was as CFO of the core Neiman Marcus brand, where he was responsible for all commercial finance activities for the 37-store division as well as e-commerce operations.

Prior to Neiman Marcus, Gotthard spent nearly nine years at Ralph Lauren, leaving as vice president of finance for Europe, Middle East and Africa, a position he held for four years. Gotthard began his career at global accounting firm Deloitte in New York.

WHSmith’s North American business, developed largely through the acquisitions of both MRG and InMotion, is experiencing strong growth driven by store expansions at airports and resorts in North America. The company’s North American CEO, Toby Keir, who has held the position for a year now, described Gotthard’s 20 years of finance experience (12 in retail) as “invaluable to our company as we continue to see unparalleled growth.”

Connect to an inflection point

For the year ended August 31, 2022, WHSmith’s group sales rebounded strongly to reach £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) versus £886 million ($1.1 billion) in 2021 across its more than 1,700 stores of the company in 30 countries. Of the $1.7 billion, the travel segment comprised $1.4 billion as the High Street sector, which made up the remainder, continued to contract (by -2%).

When the results were announced last month, Group CEO Carl Cowling noted the benefit of having the travel retail business, saying in a statement: “We are entering the new fiscal year with the group in its strongest position ever as a global travel retailer with multiple growth. opportunities around the world.

“We continue to grow our business in North America at a rapid pace and we have a very strong pipeline of new store openings. In the current financial year, our North American business will exceed our UK High Street business profit-wise and we see significant opportunities to grow this further.”

Nearly half of new store openings will be in North America

WHSmith has a pipeline of 150 new stores yet to open in 16 countries and airports as varied as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Brussels in Belgium, Oslo in Norway and Melbourne in Australia. Of these, 70 are in North America.

Gotthard will oversee the financial side of this expansion and support the broader group’s strategic goals. He commented: “It’s exciting to be joining at this point of phenomenal growth. The ability to capture market share and execute the deep pipeline of new stores already won, as well as winning tenders for new stores and concepts, is incredible.”

While Marshall Retail Group and InMotion are some distance from luxury retail, they both target a high-spending consumer on the move. MRG does have licenses to operate some high-end stores for brands such as Kiehl’s and Tumi. Gotthard probably also had to deal with the airport channel from its Ralph Lauren days when the brand had boutiques in European airports.

Las Vegas-based MRG and InMotion, the largest airport electronics retailer, together operate 295 locations across 46 airports, as well as casino resort marketplaces, which are MRG’s specialty and where opportunities lie for new luxury brand stores.

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