Hudson’s Bay Co., the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Gilt Groupe, named CVS Health Corp. executive Helena Foulkes chief executive officer as the department-store operator struggles with declining traffic and a restless activist investor.
Foulkes–ranked among the most influential women in business by Fortune magazine–will take the helm on Feb. 19 after serving as executive vice president of CVS Health and president of its pharmacy unit. She’ll be tasked with improving both physical and online sales, Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay said Monday.
“Helena is a transformational leader who will invigorate the business with a new perspective as we position HBC for the future,” Chairman Richard Baker said in a statement. Foulkes replaces Baker, who has been serving as interim CEO since Jerry Storch stepped down in October.
With pessimism on the department-store industry weighing on Hudson’s Bay shares, activist Land & Buildings Investment Management has pressed for a go-private transaction, arguing the company is undervalued and should look for ways to unlock value.
In December Hudson’s Bay reported a larger-than-expected third-quarter loss as an operations overhaul that included 2,000 job cuts undermined its bid to boost e-commerce, which has been growing. Internet Retailer estimates Hudson’s Bay’s web sales grew more than 13% in 2016, according to Top500Guide.com data. Hudson’s Bay is No. 81 in the ranking of North America’s largest online retailers by sales.
While Foulkes oversaw operations at almost 9,700 stores and CVS’s e-commerce business, she has little experience in apparel. Her departure comes as CVS is trying to obtain regulatory approval for its $67.5 billion deal to buy insurer Aetna Inc. If the deal goes through, CVS is expected to transform its stores into health hubs where consumers can get care, such as vision and hearing services, as well as the prescription drugs and retail items. CVS is No. 106 in the Top 500.