Wolfgang Link named CEO of HBC Europe, Van den Bossche steps down
Hudson's Bay Company has named Wolfgang Link as CEO of HBC Europe, owner of Galeria Kaufhof and the Galeria Inno, which is also rolling out Hudson's Bay and Saks Off 5th in the European market.
Dr. Wolfgang Link will oversee European business and the expansion and growth strategy in Europe for Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), the company announced in a statement. HBC Europe owns the department stores Galeria Kaufhof and the Belgian Galeria Inno and is in the process of launching Hudson's Bay and Saks Off 5th in Europe. Link will begin on 1 May 2017 and report to HBC CEO Jerry Storch,
Link will be taking over the position of Olivier van den Bossche, CEO of Galeria Kaufhof, who left the company on 30 April to devote himself to new tasks.
“We are pleased to welcome Wolfgang to the HBC family during this new phase of development for our European business” said Jerry Storch. “His experience in both digital and traditional channels and profound knowledge of the European market were key in selecting him for this role, and will help foster the expansion and success of HBC Europe, including our significant investment in Germany.”
Canadian Hudson's Bay Company's takeover of Kaufhof 18 months ago has been reportedly a rocky one. German publication Manager Magazine reported there was internal chaos, rent increases for department stores and revoked or redirected investments. Olivier Van den Bossche no doubt had a tough job in such an atmosphere, which may also be why Gerd Koslowski, head of communications, followed the Belgian executive and also left the company.
However, today’s announcement showed none of that dissension but rather focused on continuing the company’s growth strategy. That too might be difficult to follow through on. HBC’s fourth quarter results, released earlier this week, showed the Canadian parent company slipping into the red for 2016/2017. Strong competition, increased costs as well as declining sales for two of its subsidiaries (Saks Off 5th and Gilt) dragged down the company's results overall.
For the twelve months to the end of January, the Canadian department store group had a net loss of 516 million Canadian dollars (about 360 million euros). In the previous year HBC still had a profit of 387 million dollars. Sales rose by almost 30 percent to 14.5 billion US dollars, but in the last quarter only slightly, by 2.5 percent.
HBC is intent on expanding its European business. "We are committed to our long term strategy in Europe and to the €1 billion capital investment over five to seven years in Germany that we previously announced,” said Richard Baker, Governor and Executive Chairman of HBC. "Building on the excellent market position of Galeria Kaufhof in Germany and of Galeria Inno in Belgium, we have laid the foundation for expansion in the region. I am pleased to welcome Dr. Wolfgang Link to take our HBC Europe business to the next level."
Now it remains to be seen if Wolfgang Link can aright the group's difficult course and improve its bottom line. "It is an honor for me to join HBC, a proven global leader known for best-in-class retail with exceptional banners,” he said. Link considers both Galeria Inno and Galeria Kaufhof to be great department stores and says he looks forward to the challenge of introducing Saks OFF 5TH in Germany, and Hudson’s Bay onto the European market.
Link worked for Toys "R" Us for 10 years, and as President of Toys "R" Us Europe since 2013. In this position, he was responsible for nine European countries with more than 300 stores throughout Europe as well as the online business. Prior to that, he was Managing Director of the ElectronicPartner Group and the MediMax electronics stores, which boasts a store network of 200 locations in Germany.
Link's resume and his experience in managing large retail networks might provide some hints about Van den Bossche's departure. Manager Magazine questioned whether the top job at Kaufhof was a little more than the 40-year-old executive was ready for. As head of Galeria Inno, he was in charge of 16 stores, later reduced to 15.
HBC was founded in 1670 and is the oldest company in North America. With the Galeria-Kaufhof Group, HBC's portfolio currently includes ten brands. The company operates over 460 stores worldwide and has 66,000 employees.
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