rue21 Hires Former HSN President as CEO

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Specialty clothing retailer rue21 has appointed Bill Brand chief executive officer.

Brand is credited for his ability to accelerate growth by creating unique brand experiences. Most recently, as president of HSN and as chief retail officer of Carnival Corporation, Brand led teams to build out sophisticated omnichannel infrastructure that drove revenue to record highs.

Brand will take the helms from interim CEO John Fleming, who will return as a board member.

“We chose Bill because of his impressive track record in building high performance teams and his industry-recognized leadership abilities to modernize retail brands,” said Fleming. “Under his leadership, we will leverage rue21’s recent growth by doubling down on omnichannel enhancements to create more compelling customer experiences.”

With nearly 700 stores in 45 states and 2.6 million social followers, the affordable fashion retailer is one of the few with a positive story to tell: store reopenings after pandemic
closures outperformed year-over-year monthly sales. Most recently, rue21’s business is up
double digits compared to the total apparel market down 12% in September. The retailer
recently opened new brick-and-mortar stores.

“This pandemic proved that our brand promise has significant staying power,” said Scott Vogel, rue21’s board chairman. “During one of the most tumultuous times in retail history, John brilliantly steered the brand to not only survive when myriad retailers liquidated, but thrive beyond our expectations. Now, Bill’s ability to build teams around understanding the customer at every touch point makes his appointment the next natural progression in accelerating rue21’s transformation.”

With a focus on experiential retail -- enhancing customer connections by delivering value-based and attention-driving content that creates a “halo effect'' around brands -- Brand revamped the decades-old TV model into a more modern, digital and mobile experience.

Through strategic partnerships with Hollywood studios like Disney and A-list celebrities, he challenged his teams to deliver attention-grabbing and relatable experiences to amplify the brand and accelerate sales. To further develop customer relationships and employee engagement, he launched an employee-led initiative that raised over millions for charities.

“The opportunity to grow a retail brand with such a strong foundation and brand commitment to fashion, affordability and inclusivity is one that both humbles and thrills me,” said Brand. “I’m excited to leverage the unique momentum that rue21 has achieved during this historic time and I’d like to congratulate the entire team on their efforts. I can’t wait to meet with this dedicated team and work alongside associates to leverage our collective strengths. Through creative partnerships and programs, we will bring our customers new experiences that will further connect them with one of the most compelling, yet under the radar brands in the U.S.”

Brand most recently served as the chief retail officer of Carnival Corporation & PLC, where he was recruited to lead the creation of a new retail arm for the $18 billion global cruise company that serves 13 million guests per year. Brand serves as vice chair of the National Retail Federation Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International, and is on the board of directors of the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation.

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