Veteran footwear merchant Jeff Espersen has been named EVP and chief merchandising officer at Orva, the New York-based digital retail company.
Espersen most recently was GM and chief merchant at Zappos.com, where he spent more than 12 years leading the merchandising team before exiting in early March amid a leadership change at the online giant.
In his newly created position at Orva, Espersen is tasked with overseeing the e-commerce platform’s merchandising strategy, primarily for its soft-line businesses including shoes, accessories and clothing.
Abe Shalom, president of Orva, said in a statement, “The addition of Jeff in this new role will help solidify Orva’s position as a market-leading e-commerce platform within the apparel industry.”
Elliot Aizer, Orva’s president of merchandising, added, “We look forward to benefitting from his strong experience of implementing and executing innovative strategies and brand initiatives to attract the next generation of customers.”
In his time at Zappos, Espersen was responsible for brand acquisition, supplier relationships, inventory management and overall merchandising profitability across the Zappos.com and 6pm.com platforms. Prior to that, he was VP and GMM at DSW for five years and started his career at Nordstrom, where he was DMM for 20 years.
Of his new home, Espersen said in a statement, “Orva has built a strong reputation in the e-commerce and apparel industries as a result of its innovative, high-growth business model and the deep industry relationships it has created with notable brands in the space.”
He told FN his first day on the job last week was remote, as he will continue to be based in Nevada and commute to Orva’s headquarters in downtown Manhattan.
Orva was established in 1948 as a chain of brick-and-mortar retail stores, but began to shift its business model in 2010 to respond to the digital movement. It now operates primarily as a third-party retail partner that manages major footwear, apparel, accessories and home brands on the Amazon and Walmart marketplaces and other DTC channels.
In January 2021, private equity fund Trilantic North America announced an investment in Orva, through which the founding family retained a “meaningful” equity stake and continued to run the business. At the time, Trilantic partner Jamie Manges cited Orva’s long-term, trusted brand relationships as one of the contributors to its success so far.
Industry leaders said this week that Espersen has the right characteristics to continue that legacy.
“Jeff is an excellent brand partner and has experience not only scaling a business, but in managing the most important relationships,” Birkenstock Americas CEO David Kahan said in a statement. “He has been a trusted partner and will help Orva grow to an even higher level and be the partner of choice for any brand seeking expertise in succeeding in the marketplace.”