Execs Upbeat On New Cole Haan CEO

NEW YORK — Footwear players were largely positive on Cole Haan’s executive switch last week, and said the brand could benefit from a fresh direction.

Nike Inc. said on Dec. 15 that Dave McTague will take the CEO post at its Cole Haan brand, effective January, replacing Jim Seuss, who is leaving the brand.

“[Dave] has broad-based experience [and can] add value to the Cole Haan team,” said Lord & Taylor EVP of merchandising Liz Rodbell, who worked with McTague at Tommy Hilfiger. “He is going to fit in very well there because of his history.”

Prior to his most recent role as EVP of Partnered Brands at Liz Claiborne Inc., McTague worked for Converse (also owned by Nike) as president of apparel.

Some retailers said they expect McTague to shake things up at Cole Haan, which has been one of the weaker brands in Nike’s “other business” segment.

“Changes usually are for the better,” said Danny Wasserman, owner of New York-based Tip Top Shoes. “We’re looking for them to become more exclusive again and less promotional. Their strength is the fact that it’s a fashion line with an open stock at a better price point.”

Lord & Taylor has been growing its business with Cole Haan, according to Rodbell, who said McTague might focus on specific segments that are perfoming well.

“That whole Nike Air technology has been such an added value,” said Rodbell. “That’s probably the most exciting thing, and I would assume they are going to continue to build on that. That probably would be the angle that would continue to evolve.”

Kenny Rubenstein, GM at Rubenstein Brothers in New Orleans, said Cole Haan had been successful at fine-tuning its brand mix. “It’s not high-fashion per se,” he said. “It’s [for] a guy who likes a well-priced comfort shoe. That’s where I’ve refocused the brand, and it’s starting to grow now.”

Designer Alejandro Ingelmo, who joined the company as a consultant about a year ago, said fresh product initiatives are already in the works for the new year.

He added that while he had a strong relationship with Seuss — who brought him to the brand — he was optimistic that McTague would “bring a new perspective and a different take on the direction of the company. It’s moving forward just in the product alone, and the product speaks for itself.”

Seuss was traveling last week and could not be reached for comment.

Access exclusive content