Zale Appoints New President

Zale Corp. recently appointed a new president, Theo Killion, one of a string of executives at the company who come from outside the jewelry industry.

Killion reports to chief executive officer Neal Goldberg, who has relinquished the role of president. Goldberg, formerly president of The Children’s Place, took over the company in December 2007.

Killion had been Zale’s executive vice president of human resources, legal and corporate strategy since January 2008. He will retain those responsibilities and assume responsibility for the company’s Shared Services and Loss Prevention departments. Prior to joining Zale, he worked for Tommy Hilfiger and The Limited.

The company’s new executive vice president/chief merchandising officer, Mary Kwan, previously served as president and chief merchandising officer for Goody’s Family Clothing. She also held senior merchandising positions at Quiksilver Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., and Lane Bryant. While Kwan has no prior jewelry experience, David Sternblitz, a company spokesman, notes that Kwan’s parents owned a jewelry store.

The company also promoted Steve Larkin to executive vice president, chief of marketing and e-commerce. Larkin joined the company in January 2006 and comes from Benchmark and ShopNBC.

Executive vice president/chief stores officer William Acevedo, hired this year, comes from Banana Republic.

The sole Zale veteran in a top slot is executive vice president/chief sourcing officer Gil Hollander, who comes from Piercing Pagoda.

Sternblitz says recruiting so many outsiders was a deliberate strategy. “Neal [Goldberg] wanted people with a strong retail background,” he says. “He saw very little differentiation in the jewelry business. He wanted people with a fresh perspective that could integrate a number of different perspectives. If these executives can do what they’ve done in the past, it bodes very well for us.”

Zale has been running a $100 million inventory clearance this year. “The heavy clearance will slow this fall,” Sternblitz says. “But Neal is very quick to say he doesn’t consider clearance a bad word and will be part of the ongoing business. It’s important to bring fresh product in front of the customer.”

Sternblitz notes that the company also is changing its marketing ahead of its Mom Rocks campaign for Mother’s Day. “It’s focused on creating an emotional connection with the customer, not leading with price,” he says.