Hudson’s Bay Co. is undergoing a leadership shakeup with the return of former Bay executive Liz Rodbell as president and CEO, as Canada’s oldest retailer navigates challenges that have led to cost-cutting and delayed supplier payments.
Ms. Rodbell’s appointment takes effect Dec. 1, and follows the departure of president Sophia Hwang-Judiesch, who is stepping down to “pursue another opportunity,” according to a company news release on Tuesday.
Hudson’s Bay is making the changes at a particularly difficult time for the company. Earlier this year, the retailer eliminated hundreds of jobs at its corporate offices in an effort to “streamline operations.” Last week, the company announced that it had raised US$340-million through a series of real estate transactions – cash that the Bay is using to fund its retail operations, including paying significantly overdue invoices to its suppliers.
Sources at two companies in Canada confirmed to The Globe last week that Hudson’s Bay had fallen behind on payments to its vendors in recent months. And U.S. industry publication The Business of Fashion also reported that retail chain Saks, which is owned by Bay parent HBC LP, had been significantly late in making payments to its suppliers, citing unnamed sources.
Like other retailers, the Bay has been struggling with a difficult economic environment, as consumers feeling the pain of inflation and of multiple interest-rate increases have responded by pulling back on non-essential purchases.
In Tuesday’s news release, HBC governor and executive chairman Richard Baker thanked Ms. Hwang-Judiesch “for her many contributions in leading us through a very challenging time in our industry.” Ms. Hwang-Judiesch had been in the role for just over a year, having joined Hudson’s Bay in September, 2022.
Ms. Rodbell was a long-time executive at HBC’s Lord & Taylor chain before she was also appointed president of Hudson’s Bay in 2013, a role she held until 2017. (HBC sold Lord & Taylor in 2019.) In Tuesday’s release, Mr. Baker noted that Ms. Rodbell oversaw a 22-per-cent increase in sales at Hudson’s Bay during her previous tenure. Since leaving HBC, Ms. Rodbell spent four years at fashion brand Steve Madden as group president of retail accessories and licensing, and more recently worked as a consultant.
Among Ms. Rodbell’s priorities will be to “drive the continued transformation of Hudson’s Bay to deliver the most exciting shopping experience for Canadian customers,” Mr. Baker wrote.
Ms. Rodbell will oversee both the network of 83 Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada as well as TheBay.com. That differentiates it from HBC’s other store chains, Saks and Saks Off 5th, which have operated as separate businesses from their e-commerce operations since 2021. When HBC split off Saks.com and SaksOff5th.com into separate businesses that year, it also sold stakes in the digital operations for approximately US$700-million in total. Hudson’s Bay also split the e-commerce business into a separate operation in 2021, but brought the entirety of the Canadian retail business back under single leadership earlier this year.
The company also announced on Tuesday that Michael Culhane, former chief financial officer of parent company HBC, will take over as CFO and chief operating officer of Hudson’s Bay. Mr. Culhane had been acting as interim CFO at the retailer since the departure of Nadira Singh in September.