After just nine months leading Merrell, Footwear News has learned that Gabel quietly exited the firm in February and accepted the role of president and CEO of Canada-based lifestyle-brand Roots, effective Feb. 24.
“Growing up in Canada, Roots was a brand and retail operation that I have long admired,” Gabel said in a Feb. 29 press release announcing his new post at Roots. “I’m excited to be joining the team, and to play a role in leading this iconic brand to new heights of success. Roots’ core values of preserving and celebrating the outdoors, operating with honesty and integrity, contributing to society, and advocating for a healthy lifestyle, represent the best of Canada. I hope that together, we can bring that to the world.”
Gabel, who had spent 13 years at Adidas Group Canada before joining Wolverine as president of its Performance Group, was tapped to head Merrell in May 2015 after Gene McCarthy, the brand’s president since August 2011, exited. (McCarthy later joined Asics as CEO.)
On Feb. 4, Wolverine briefly mentioned Gabel’s departure in a press release, which outlined several executive changes at the firm. The company said Jim Zwiers, an 18-year veteran of the company who was appointed president of the Wolverine Outdoor and Lifestyle Group on that same date, would also serve as president of Merrell until a permanent replacement was named.
In an in-depth interview with FN in January, Gabel laid out an ambitious strategy for reinvigorating Merrell, which had posted a soft 1 percent sales gain in Q3. At the time, the then-president said he hoped to boost the brand’s product development speed.
“We will come out with product four times a year, not just twice a year. And we’ve shifted additional resources to the women’s side,” Gabel said.
Roots has 245 retail stores in Canada, the United States and Asia and makes leather bags, footwear, jackets, apparel, athletic wear, accessories and home furnishings.