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It’s not often that we comment on personnel changes, but the addition of Allen Questrom to Foot Locker’s board is worth noting.  For most who have been following the retail sector for more than a few years, you’re probably familiar with Questrom’s successful and widely praised turnaround of JC Penney (’00-’04).  If you go back even further the list includes Neiman Marcus, Federated, and Barney’s.  For those less familiar, Questrom is pretty much a legend of retail turnarounds, known as “The Master of the Turnaround” and “Mr. Fix It”. 

While Questrom has had his fair share of success over the course of his 40+ years in retailing, his strength is deeply rooted in cultural change.  He thrives in extracting talent from people within organizations whose culture may not have allowed or afforded them the opportunity to excel.  Additionally, he has no problem looking for talent outside of an organization, even if this means hiring an “enemy” who may be THE best person for the job.  This sounds silly for sure, especially if you’re solely focused on the quantitative aspects of the FL opportunity.   However,  Foot Locker up until just one year ago was managed by essentially the same team with the same processes for a decade.  The cultural shift from defense to offense for the world’s largest athletic footwear retailer is necessary for this multi-year process to continue. 

There’s still plenty of work to be done, but the reunion of Allen Questrom with Ken Hicks is noteworthy and one that should only add to the merchandising, marketing, and brand segmentation strategies already underway.

Eric Levine