The Best and Worst Retail CEOs of 2013

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" — the often misquoted line from Shakespeare's Henry IV can easily be applied to the life of the CEO. When the brand is doing well the CEO is on top of the world and lavished with praise, but as soon as sales start to slide and stock prices dip his/her head is on the chopping block. The following list of the best and worst retail CEOs of the year highlights some of the top and poorest performing brands of the year; led by CEOs of vision and innovations as well as bosses that can't seem to get out of their own way or keep their foot out of their mouth. Three of the four worst CEOs on this list also made Fox News' compilation of the worst CEOs of the year.
The 4 Worst CEOs of 2013:
Edward Lampert, Sears: Sears is in freefall. Instead of helping guide the American institution back to profitability Lampert is little more than an auctioneer as the retailer is gutted piece by piece and sold to the highest bidder. In its latest gyration, the spin-off of Lands' End, a willing buyer wasn't even able to be found for the once-profitable brand.  With seven straight years of same-store sales declines, Sears greatest asset currently is its real estate holdings — the sale of which may keep the company gasping for air in the coming years, but the end is near.
Ron Johnson, JCPenney: Coming over from Apple, Johnson was heralded as the savior of the struggling JC Penney brand but was ousted in April of 2013 after just 17 months after his unconventional tactics proved a disaster for the department store chain. Johnson eliminated sales, eliminated brands, brought in new brands, brought back sales, changed the logo numerous times — but could never get any traction. His antics devastated the brand, as JCPenney lost nearly a billion dollars in 2012 and stock prices dropped nearly 50% during Johnson's reign. Industry insiders and analysts believe that Johnson may well have hammered the nail in the once proud American brand's coffin. 
Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch: Jeffries got himself in hot water with some over-the-top proclamations about the brand's exclusivity and the lack of plus-size clothing. Alienating potential customers is never a good business practice and every article written about the troubled CEO seems to highlight another politically incorrect statement. Shareholders would likely turn the other cheek to the brashness of Jeffries had the company performed better, but with a 30% drop in share price in 2013 little leeway can be expected. Jeffries has signed a new year-long contract that takes effect on February 2 — Abercrombie's apparent confidence in it CEO is only skin-deep, the new contract ties his compensation to the brand's performance and if the current financial situation stands pat he surely won't  be pulling in a king's ransom.
Dennis "Chip" Wilson, Lululemon: Lululemon built its brand by providing comfortable, attractive and well-built active clothing — particularly yoga pants — for women of all shapes and sizes. When one of their yoga pants was cited for poor construction and sheerness, instead of stepping up and taking ownership of the gaff, then acting CEO (position currently held by Laurent Potdevin) and founder of the brand Wilson attacked the user. He blamed the size of the wearers' thighs instead of the weakness of the fabric, igniting a public relations firestorm that lead to him stepping down as chairman of the board. When the controversy first hit in June stock prices took a $20 nose dive — shares continue to fall and are at the lowest point in 52 weeks.
The 4 Best CEOs of 2013:
Jeff Bezos, Amazon: Amazon was losing money in the aftermath of the dot-com bust and its future was uncertain. But Jeff Bezos had a vision and Amazon has never wavered from a laser-like focus on exploiting the unique advantages that online retailing has over brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer dropped a bomb Thanksgiving Weekend when it announced that CEO Jeff Bezos dreams of delivering orders to customers' doorsteps via unmanned drones. While Amazon has several hurdles to overcome before that dream becomes a reality, Bezos will likely be on the forefront of the technology with massive fleets of drones once they are approved for home delivery.
Terry Lundgren, Macy's: Macy's has evolved into a leader in all things omnichannel, and Terry Lundgren is its fearless leader. From impacting the way customers shop, to extending inventory and even creating a more personal customer experience, the Macy's magic is all about the customer. Over the past five years, the retailer has shifted its capital investments aggressively toward technology and infrastructure to support its omnichannel vision. Lundgren decisions revolve around the customer, "every decision we make, we think about it starts with the customer. How does she want to shop, it may be harder for us, that's our problem. We got to deal with that. It's all about what the customer wants and chooses and that's how we have to think about," said Lundgren.
Hubert Joly, Best Buy: A turnaround specialist with experience at major travel, hospitality, technology and media companies Joly took over as president and CEO in September 2012. Since then Joly has implemented a store growth and innovation strategy to keep its brick-and-mortar stores fresh, modern and competitively priced to keep the economic rebound it experienced in 2013 rolling. Following a two-year steady decline in value in the face of increased competition from Amazon and others, Best Buy's stock is up more than 250% this year. This rebound is due in no small part to the electronic retailer's ability to respond to pricing pressure and improve its in-store services as it fights back against e-tailers' pricing advantage.
Mindy Grossman, HSNi: As the digital arena grows in importance, HSNi has been prioritizing investments in digital, data analytics and marketing at the expense of other parts of the business, largely due to their impact in expanding the retailer's demographic reach and making the most of HSNi's blend of content and commerce. "The changes that we've made in operations, finance, marketing, digital and new business development… are focused on efficiency, leverage and growth potential," CEO Mindy Grossman said. In fact, 22% of customers purchasing through smartphones and tablets are new to the company this year and in September 2013, HSNi's mobile sales had already surpassed the total volume in 2012. In 2013's third quarter alone, mobile sales were 50% higher than the same period the previous year.  These results likely were instrumental in HSNi's Internet Retailer Mobile 500 Index ranking moving up to 9th from 14th last year.
For related content:
Terry Lundgren and Ginni Rometty Share the Stage
Abercrombie CEO: For Better Or Worse
Attack of the Drones: Amazon Shakes up Cyber Monday
Macy's Wins with Omnichannel
Lululemon Wears Customers Thin
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