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July 27, 2022

Diane Sullivan to step down as Caleres chief

Footwear specialist Caleres has announced its long-serving CEO Diane Sullivan will retire in January and will assume the role of executive chairman.

By Beth Wright

Sullivan will step down on 15 January after more than a decade in the role. Jay Schmidt, president of Caleres, will succeed Sullivan as chief executive officer.

“Diane transformed Caleres from a company that sells shoes to one that builds brands and connects with consumers while at the same time markedly changing the financial performance of the company,” says Ward Klein, lead independent director of Caleres. “She skillfully evolved the company’s portfolio – leading the acquisition and incubation of numerous brands including Sam Edelman, Allen Edmonds, and Vionic, all three of which are now lead assets for the company. Notably, the company’s earnings per share climbed steadily increasing six-fold over Diane’s tenure as CEO.

“The board is delighted that she has agreed to accept the new executive chair role, where she can continue to use her strategic abilities and vast industry knowledge to help lead the company forward. On behalf of the entire board, we thank Diane for her leadership and congratulate Jay on his new position. We look forward to working with both on a seamless transition.”

As executive chairman, Sullivan will continue to lead the Caleres board of directors as well as partner with Schmidt and the rest of the Caleres leadership team on key strategic initiatives.

“It has been an honour to serve as Caleres’ chief executive officer over the course of the past 11 years,” Sullivan says. “While I am ready to hand over the reigns as CEO, I am thrilled about the opportunity to continue to work with the board and the Caleres leadership team in this new capacity. I am highly confident that Jay is the ideal person to succeed me as CEO. He is a consummate merchant and has been instrumental in the evolution and success of the company’s portfolio of brands. He has built an impressive track record of operational and financial accomplishments during his tenure. His deep understanding of our industry, tremendous knowledge of our company and his ability to translate ambition into action will be invaluable in accelerating improving results. I know Jay will lead Caleres to even greater success in the years ahead.”

Schmidt was named president in December 2020 and assumed responsibility for consumer and brand strategy for the entire Caleres portfolio, which includes Famous Footwear, Allen Edmonds, Naturalizer, Sam Edelman and Vionic, among others. Prior to that, Schmidt held the position of division president, Caleres brand portfolio. Before joining the company in 2009, Schmidt spent ten years with Nine West Group in several capacities and held positions of increasing responsibility with Lord & Taylor, May Merchandising Corporation and Macy’s.

In its most recent quarterly update, Caleres saw net sales rise 15.1% to US$735.1m for the three months to the end of April. The footwear firm reported a 3.4% sales decline in the Famous Footwear segment and a 46.1% sales increase in the Brand Portfolio segment. Direct-to-consumer sales represented approximately 65% of total net sales. Net earnings of $50.5m compared to $6.1m in the first quarter of fiscal 2021.

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