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John King, the new CEO at Lowe Alpine Holdings, based in the U.K., has
only been on the job since early December — click here to read our story — yet he’s wasting no time rolling up his sleeves and diving in.
There is little doubt in the minds of the SNEWSÂ® team and others that he
has a tough row to hoe. His job will be to please and to appease a
critical triumvirate made up of employees (many changes already and the
U.S. team looks to be very solid at last), shareholders (we wonder how
much patience they will exhibit as King works to regain retail
confidence), and customers/retailers (many remember the old Lowe
fondly, but several years of poor product and equally poor delivery
will test any loyalist) while navigating his company through some murky
and choppy business waters indeed. SNEWSÂ® sat down with King recently
and came away very impressed with this rugby-playing apparel
executive’s passion and focus for the task at hand. What follows are a
few excerpts from our repartee:
SNEWSÂ®: Any truth to the rumor that you will have to take Lowe Alpine mass market in order to survive or appease shareholders?
I’d rather shoot myself in the kneecaps than take this brand mass
market! There is simply no way that this brand should be sold anywhere
other than specialty retail.
SNEWSÂ®: That will make your retailers happy, but what about your shareholders?
Of the three I am responsible to — employees, shareholders,
retailers/customers — I feel it is important to please most of them
most of the time, if I can. I feel the business has suffered over the
last several years from lack of focus and vision and lack of TLC. At
the same time, it is essential that everyone — including shareholders
— realize we are in a turnaround situation, and that takes time.
SNEWSÂ®: You mention lack of focus and vision. What are you doing right now to address that?
We have to be very clear with who Lowe is and what the company wants to
be as it moves forward. We are clear that the company is not for sale.
We are clear that the company’s product needs to be sold at specialty
retail. We realize that the American side of the brand is still very
key, although we may work differently in managing that as we move
forward. Certainly, we have not done as good a job in the U.S. as we
should have, but we know what we want to do and that is to re-establish
ourselves as a pace-setter in this industry.
SNEWSÂ®: With your background in apparel, will there be an increase in creating clothing that is more rooted in fashion than function?
Functionality is the foundation of design in this industry, and we
can’t lose sight of that in anything that we do. At the same time,
fashion is everything, especially in apparel. That means listening to
what the customer wants and that will influence what we do.