Vera Bradley Names Robert Wallstrom Chief Executive Officer
Former Saks Executive and 30-Year Industry Veteran Brings Deep Retail and
FORT WAYNE, Ind., Nov. 5, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Vera Bradley, Inc.
(Nasdaq:VRA) today announced that Robert T. Wallstrom has been appointed
President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors,
effective November 11, 2013. Mr. Wallstrom succeeds Michael C. Ray, who
previously announced his intention to retire as CEO.
Mr. Wallstrom brings 30 years of retail experience to Vera Bradley, most
recently serving as President of Saks Fifth Avenue's OFF Fifth division, where
he was instrumental in driving a 50 percent increase in sales and a 100
percent increase in profitability. Under his stewardship, OFF Fifth also
elevated its brand, improved its assortment of merchandise, and expanded from
40 stores to 71 stores.
John Kyees, Vera Bradley's Lead Independent Director, said, "Rob is a
successful retail executive with extensive brand management experience, proven
leadership abilities and a strong track record of driving growth. As President
of OFF Fifth, Rob developed and implemented a strategic plan that repositioned
the division as a growth engine, propelling Saks to a market leading position.
The Board is confident he possesses the vision, experience and skills to build
upon our track record and achieve long-term success for the Vera Bradley
Robert J. Hall, Chairman of the Board, added, "After a rigorous search process
which included the evaluation of a number of highly qualified candidates, the
Board unanimously concluded that Rob is the right leader for Vera Bradley and
we are thrilled to welcome him to the Company. Rob is extremely well-regarded
in the retail industry and has a proven track record developing and
successfully executing strategic growth plans. He has a deep background in
brand positioning, product development and planning and allocation, and we
believe he has the right skills and expertise to lead our Company into the
future. On behalf of the Board, I would also like to thank Mike Ray for all of
his contributions over the years. Mike is a talented, successful leader, a
wonderful friend, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
Mr. Wallstrom stated, "I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as CEO of
such a unique company with a distinctive and authentic brand, an immensely
loyal customer base, and a strong corporate culture. Mike Ray began Vera
Bradley's evolution into a powerful multi-channel business and I am excited to
lead the Company into its next phase of growth. I look forward to working with
the Vera Bradley management team and Board as we work to capitalize on the
significant opportunities to grow the business and generate long-term
Mr. Ray said, "I am thrilled to be handing the reins over to Rob, who I
believe is the ideal next leader for Vera Bradley. We believe his extensive
experience and knowledge of the industry will be tremendous assets to the
Mr. Ray will remain CEO until Mr. Wallstrom's start date and will serve in an
advisory capacity for a brief time period to ensure a seamless transition. Mr.
Ray will also step down from the Board of Directors. Mr. Wallstrom and his
family are relocating to Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Robert T. Wallstrom Bio
Mr. Wallstrom most recently served as President of Saks Fifth Avenue's OFF
Fifth division. Previously, he was Group Senior Vice President and General
Manager of Saks' flagship New York store from 2002 to 2007, where he
articulated a vision to return the store to its luxury heritage and
dramatically improve merchandising, service and the in-store experience.
During his five-year tenure at the New York location, he helped grow annual
sales from $450 million to more than $600 million and designed and developed
the iconic eighth floor shoe store – the first with its own zip code – setting
the stage for highly productive relationships with key luxury manufacturers
around the world. Prior to joining Saks, Mr. Wallstrom held a variety of roles
of increasing responsibility at Macy's Inc. from 1987 to 1995 and began his
career in 1983 at J. W. Robinson department stores, a division of Associated
Dry Goods Corp., which was later acquired by May Department Stores Company.
Mr. Wallstrom holds a BS in business administration/accounting from San Diego
About Vera Bradley, Inc.
Vera Bradley is a leading designer of women's handbags and accessories,
luggage and travel items, eyewear, stationery and gifts. Founded in 1982 by
friends Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller, the brand's iconic
designs and versatile styles offer women of all ages a colorful way to
accessorize every look. Vera Bradley offers a unique, multi-channel sales
model as well as a focus on service and a high level of engagement with fans.
Fiscal 2013 net revenues increased 17% to $541 million. The company's
commitment to breast cancer research continues to increase its reach through
the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. For more information about Vera
Bradley (Nasdaq: VRA), visit www.verabradley.com/mediaroom.
Sard Verbinnen & Co
Denise DesChenes / Lesley Bogdanow / Pamela Blum
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