5 Things to Know About Genesco’s New Woman in Power

Big executive moves are afoot at Genesco Inc., which today named Mimi Eckel Vaughn as its new president and CEO.

The current SVP and COO at the specialty retail company will take the helm at the start of February. She becomes the 12th top leader at the firm, succeeding longtime President and CEO Robert Dennis, who will retain the executive chairman title.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead Genesco forward as we enter the next chapter of our company’s growth, creating and curating leading footwear brands,” Vaughn said. “I look forward to working with Bob [Dennis], our management team and with our tremendously talented and dedicated employees to build on the company’s strong foundation and most recent success, and [to] continue to execute on our strategic vision to build shareholder value as a leading footwear-focused company.”

Here’s what you need to know about Genesco’s new woman in power.

Female first

For the first time in its nearly century-old history, Genesco has named a woman as president and CEO.

Vaughn joins the ranks of fellow female leaders like Caleres Inc. chairman, president and CEO Diane Sullivan; Hudson’s Bay Co. CEO Helena Foulkes; and J. C. Penney Company Inc. CEO Jill Soltau. A loss for the industry, however, is Barneys New York president and CEO Daniella Vitale, who last week announced her departure as Authentic Brands Group became the new owner of the luxury retailer.

It’s a step forward for the apparel and footwear worlds, considering only 12.5% of retail companies in the Fortune 1000 are led by women, according to a report published this year by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The study notably estimates that women make roughly 80% of all fashion-related purchasing decisions, representing as much as $15 trillion for the industry.

Groomed for promotion

The exec’s appointment marks another move in the firm’s succession plan — a process that has been several years in the making.

In 2003, Vaughn joined Genesco as VP of strategy and business development, becoming SVP of the division three years later. In 2009, she was made SVP of strategy and shared services, then took on the CFO post in 2015. She was promoted to COO in January 2018, formally assuming the role in May following Mel Tucker’s appointment as CFO.

“She has a proven track record as an exceptional leader, demonstrated through successive roles at Genesco,” Dennis said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting Mimi and the entire management team as we work together to continue Genesco’s terrific positive momentum that we have experienced since we divested Lids in February.”

Growth at Genesco

As the new leader, Vaughn will be tasked with leading the Nashville-based company during a period of continued growth.

In its first quarter as a footwear-focused company following the sale of Lids Sports Group in February, Genesco delivered top- and bottom-line results that exceeded Wall Street forecasts. It also posted better-than-expected figures in the second quarter, marking the ninth straight quarter of positive comps for the firm’s footwear businesses.

For the full year, Genesco forecasts earnings per share to be between $3.80 to $4.20, closer to the midpoint of the range and up from the previous range of $3.35 to $3.75.

“Our recent performance represents a great start to our first fiscal year as a footwear-focused company, and we believe that the strategic course we have set for Genesco will result in improved profitability and increased shareholder value over the long term,” Dennis said in September.

Salary and compensation

According to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May, Vaughn took home $1.91 million in total executive compensation as SVP and CFO at Genesco. (Her compensation as CFO was held at fiscal 2018 levels, pending the promotion to COO that occurred the following fiscal year.)

That month, Vaughn’s annual base salary increased to $650,000 from $460,925, and her target bonus rose to 80% from 75%, as a result of the promotion. She also holds 120,631 shares of the company’s common stock equivalent.

Longtime leader

At 53 years old, Vaughn has held leadership roles across sectors. Prior to Genesco, she served as EVP of business development and marketing as well as acting CFO for payment processor Link2Gov Corp., also in Nashville.

From 1993 to 1999, she was a consultant at management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in Atlanta., where she advised senior execs and board members, specializing in the consumer and retail sectors. She also took on corporate finance posts at investment banking giant Goldman Sachs & Co., merger-and-acquisition adviser Wasserstein Perella & Co. and the late Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Additionally, Vaughn graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in foreign service and international economics from Georgetown University. She also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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