Former CFO Of Luxury Retailer Neiman Marcus Steps Into The Airport Convenience Space
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WHSmith, a global retailer of news, books, and convenience items, has hired the former chief financial officer of luxury department store player Neiman Marcus, Kevin Gotthard, as the CFO
for its North America business which incorporates travel retailers Marshall Retail Group (MRG) and InMotion Entertainment Group, a recent entrant to British airports.

Gotthard spent three and a half years at Neiman Marcus Group, which owns the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman brand plus Last Call and Horchow, and which, since May 2022, is minority-owned by online fashion tech platform Farfetch
through a $200 million investment. Gotthard’s final year with the group was as CFO of the core high-end Neiman Marcus brand where he was responsible for all commercial finance activities for the 37-store division as well as e-commerce operations.

Before his Neiman Marcus days, Gotthard spent almost nine years at Ralph Lauren, leaving as vice president of finance for Europe, Middle East and Africa, a role he held for four years. Gotthard began his career at global accountancy firm Deloitte in New York.

WHSmith’s North America business, mostly developed through the acquisitions of both MRG and InMotion, is in a period of high growth due to store expansions across airports and resorts in North America. The company’s North American CEO, Toby Keir—in the job for a year now—described Gotthard’s 20 years of experience in finance (12 in retail) as “invaluable to our business as we continue to see unparalleled growth.”

Joining at an inflection point

For the year ended August 31, 2022, WHSmith’s group revenue made a strong recovery, reaching £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) versus 2021’s £886 million ($1.1 billion) across the company’s more than 1,700 retail stores across 30 countries. Of the $1.7 billion, the travel segment comprised $1.4 billion as the High Street sector, which made up the remainder, continued to contract (at -2%).

When the results were revealed last month, Group CEO Carl Cowling noted the benefit of having the travel retail arm and said in a statement: “We enter the new financial year with the group in its strongest ever position as a global travel retailer with multiple growth opportunities across the world.

“We continue to grow our North America business at pace and we have a very strong pipeline of new store openings. In the current financial year, our North America business is set to become larger, in profit terms, than our U.K. High Street business and we see significant opportunities to grow this further.”

Almost half of new store openings will be in North America

WHSmith has a pipeline of 150 new stores yet to open across 16 countries and in airports as varied as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Brussels in Belgium, Oslo in Norway, and Melbourne in Australia. Of these, 70 are in North America.

Gotthard will be overseeing the financial side of this expansion and supporting the strategic goals of the wider group. He commented: “It is exciting to join at this point of phenomenal growth. The opportunity to capture market share and execute the deep pipeline of already won new stores, as well as win tenders for new shops and concepts is incredible.”

While Marshall Retail Group and InMotion are some distance from luxury retail, both cater to a traveling consumer with high-spending power. MRG does have licences to operate some high-end stores for brands like Kiehl’s and Tumi. Gotthard is also likely to have had some dealings with the airport channel from his Ralph Lauren days when the brand had boutiques in European airports.

Together, Las Vegas-based MRG and InMotion, the largest airport-based electronics retailer, operate 295 locations spanning 46 airports as well as casino-resort marketplaces which is MRG’s specialty and where opportunities for new luxury branded store may lie.

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