Lord & Taylor veteran Liz Rodbell is leaving the company.
After more than 30 years at the historic HBC-owned department store — where she started as a dress buyer and ascended through the ranks to president in 2014 — Rodbell will exit her post at the end of April.
“She has decided now is the right time for a change and will be with the company through the end of the month after readying Lord & Taylor for the innovative launch of its digital flagship on Walmart.com,” the company said in an emailed statement.
In addition to serving as Lord & Taylor’s top leader since 2014, Rodbell was simultaneously the president of Hudson’ Bay in Canada before hanging up the latter hat in June 2017 as part of a leadership reshuffle at HBC. (Prior to becoming president of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay, she had served as EVP chief merchant for both divisions since 2012.)
As a teenager growing up in Springfield, Mass., Rodbell dreamed of running her own clothing store. That modest ambition ultimately became a much grander reality; some 40 years later, when she was tasked with leading one of retail’s oldest and most venerated nameplates, Lord & Taylor.
“Fashion has always been my passion. I’ve always believed that when you look good, you feel even better,” the executive told FN last year when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 2017 FN Achievement Awards.
A summer job at the age of 16, selling footwear at Springfield’s Forbes & Wallace department store gave Rodbell her first window into the colorful world of retail — and she was hooked. “Surrounded by shoes, I fell in love with the business. It opened up a new universe, showing me the possibilities of making this my career.”
Rodbell enrolled at New York’s Wood Tobé-Coburn college, where she earned a degree in merchandising. She then landed in the executive training program at Abraham & Straus before being recruited by Lord & Taylor in 1985 to serve as a dress buyer.
“Once I arrived, I never looked back. It was such an exciting place to be, offering me incredible opportunities for personal growth,” said Rodbell.
In a time of great change — particularly for department stores — Rodbell had guided Lord & Taylor with a steady hand, aiming to position the 191-year-old retailer for the future.
“Liz has dedicated her career to evolving Lord & Taylor,” Richard Baker, governor, executive chairman and then-interim CEO of HBC said in a 2017 interview. “She consistently brings her passion for product, service and experience to everything she does.”
Most recently, Rodbell has focused on engineering the store’s omnichannel strategy and delivering unique merchandise and experiences to her customers. The much-heralded Walmart partnership that Rodbell will see through to its kickoff is the most recent example of her efforts to test new concepts at Lord & Taylor in the midst of retail’s frantic evolution.
Still, the future of the department store has been uncertain. Facing increased pressures from an activist investor that criticized its lagging profitability, HBC in October sold much of Lord & Taylor’s New York flagship to office company WeWork for $850 million. The company said that by 2019, the 650,000-square-foot building will be transformed into office space for all but a remaining 150,000 square feet, which will house a significantly pared-down store.
A search is underway for Rodbell’s successor.