Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Talbots HR Chief, John Fiske Tapped To Head Retail Operations

Talbots Inc. (TLB) named its human resources chief, John Fiske III, to oversee its retail operations in the U.S. and Canada.

The appointment comes as Talbots has struggled in recent months, suspending its quarterly dividend and freezing its pension plans to preserve cash. About a month ago, Talbots said it would cut 17% of its corporate-level work force, continue to eliminate some hourly store jobs and take other steps as part of plans to cut costs by $150 million.

Shares of the struggling women's apparel retailer fell about 4% after Talbots disclosed the retirement of Michele Mandell from the post last week.

In his new post, Fiske will also direct Talbots' new upscale outlet business launching in May. He has led Talbots human resources since April 2007 and added responsibility for business development, corporate services and loss prevention last June. He was senior vice president of human resources at J. Jill Group before Talbots acquired it in May 2006. He also worked at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. (KCP) and Timberland Co. (TBL).

Earlier this month, Talbots also said it used a $200 million loan from a major shareholder to pay the acquisition debt on its 2006 purchase of J.Jill. The company is selling J.Jill after the buyout proved to be a major blunder when sales tumbled for the more-casual brand.

Women's apparel sellers were struggling with lackluster shopper interest in new offerings even before the U.S. economy went south. Talbots announced plans in June to cut about 9% of its work force as part of its restructuring, which already included the closure of several small chains not geared to females.

Talbots' shares closed up 3.4% at $3.34 and rose another 3 cents in after-hours trading. The stock has lost two-thirds of its value in the past five months.