* Ken Hicks resigns as president, CMO of J.C. Penney
* Hicks to become Foot Locker CEO effective Aug 17
(Adds byline, analyst comment)
By Nicole Maestri
SAN FRANCISCO, June 25 J.C. Penney Co Inc
(JCP.N) said on Thursday that its president and chief
merchandising officer, Ken Hicks, has resigned, and he will
become the president and chief executive officer of
athletic-shoe retailer Foot Locker Inc (FL.N).
Hicks, 56, will take on his new role on Aug. 17, when he
will succeed Matthew Serra, who has been Foot Locker's chief
executive officer since March of 2001. Serra, 64, will continue
as Foot Locker's chairman until he retires on Jan. 30, 2010.
"It is rare that an opportunity to lead an international
specialty retailer like Foot Locker Inc arises," Hicks said in
Hicks, the former president of Payless ShoeSource Inc,
joined Penney in 2002, and held the position of president and
chief merchandising officer since 2005.
He worked closely with the department store operator's CEO
Myron "Mike" Ullman to run the retailer's business.
"When Ken Hicks was appointed president, supposedly a cheer
went up in the executive suite because he was so well
regarded," said Gilford Securities analyst Bernard Sosnick.
Sosnick said he was surprised to hear of Hicks departure
from the retailer. Penney is losing its chief merchandising
officer as it tries to revive sales amid a deep recession that
has cut shopper demand for its discretionary goods, like home
decor and jewelry.
Penney said it will conduct an executive search to find a
successor for Hicks. In the interim, Ullman will assume his
Hicks is joining Foot Locker as the retailer, which
operates roughly 3,600 stores around the world, also contends
with sluggish sales as shoppers cut back on shoe purchases in
the weak economy.
To lure shoppers to its stores, it has tried to strike
deals to sell exclusive name-brand merchandise in its stores --
a strategy that has also been followed at Penney.
John Horan, publisher of the Sporting Goods Intelligence,
said that in this climate, many retailers are looking to hire
executives, like Hicks, who are good merchants as opposed to
simply good operators.
"When you get into a business as highly brand driven (as
this)," he said. "You really need someone who is a merchant."
Serra joined Foot Locker in 1998 as President and Chief
Executive Officer of Foot Locker Worldwide. He became president
and CEO in 2001, and chairman of the board in 2004.
(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; additional reporting by
Alexandria Sage; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Bernard Orr)