Vera Bradley last week shook up its business, including its leadership. Brand President Daren Hull, Chief Creative Officer Beatrice Mac Cabe and Chief Revenue Officer Mary Beth Trypus all left, with their positions eliminated. The brand is looking to fill the newly created role of senior vice president of merchandising and design.
For $10 million, the company will acquire the 25% interest in DTC bracelet brand Pura Vida that it doesn’t yet own, scheduled to close Monday. Pure Vida co-Presidents and founders Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman left the company Saturday, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. As Vera Bradley searches for someone to serve as president of Pura Vida, the brand’s vice president of finance, Sujay Shah, will assume day-to-day oversight.
Vera Bradley also named Alison Hiatt chief marketing officer, overseeing digital marketing, customer data and e-commerce, and supervising its creative marketing, store and brand experience teams. She most recently was chief marketing officer at ice cream company Salt and Straw and, before that, at Banfield Pet Hospitals.
Newly arrived CEO Jacqueline Ardrey, who in November replaced retiring chief Robert Wallstrom, is starting off the year with some dramatic moves.
The company was already on the hunt for more opportunities to trim expenses, including closing stores. The company shuttered 10 full-line stores in 2022, Wallstrom said in December. Vera Bradley saw revenues and profits shrink in the third quarter.
“While stores will continue to play an important part of our Vera Bradley distribution strategy going forward, we continue to rationalize our store base, closing underperforming stores as leases expire,” Wallstrom said.
When the company acquired a 75% stake in the Pura Vida brand in 2019 for $75 million-plus, its rationale centered on broad commonalities in their marketing opportunities, including “devoted, emotionally-connected, and multi-generational customer bases; alignment as casual, comfortable, affordable, and fun lifestyle brands; positioning as ‘gifting’ and socially-connected brands; strong, entrepreneurial cultures and shared values of ingenuity, tenacity, and optimism; a keen focus on community, charity, and social consciousness; complementary, multi-channel distribution strategies; and talented core leadership teams aligned and committed to the long-term success of their brands.”
More specifically, Vera Bradley noted “Pura Vida’s unique positioning as a digitally-native brand with a loyal and growing consumer following,” and that the DTC brand could leverage its new parent’s infrastructure for growth.
Last week, much of the core leadership teams at both businesses have left, a necessary step toward the company’s goals, Ardrey said in a statement. The changes announced Jan. 24 will produce annualized savings exceeding $2 million, on top of $25 million in cost cuts “previously identified and largely realized in fiscal 2023,” she said.
“It is critical to have a high-functioning, aligned executive leadership team, and this flattened and streamlined structure will help us execute better, make faster decisions, and drive success,” she said.
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