This is the time of year when retailers and brands typically see a flurry of firings and hirings of CEOs and other top execs. It’s a mid-summer tradition of sorts, coming after bonuses have been calculated and paid, and during the relative quiet between seasons.
This year’s executive shuffle has been extra busy as CEOs of struggling public companies run out of excuses, and the wolves of Wall Street — especially private equity investors who have been speculating in the sector lately — run out of patience. After two and a-half years of toughing out the pandemic, supply chain snarls, the Great Resignation, and rising inflation, several major retailers have been cleaning house, swapping out CEOs and other c-suite execs.
The “CEO Exodus,” as it has been dubbed, includes the recent departures of the heads of Bed Bath & Beyond, Dollar General, fashion reseller TheRealReal, Amazon Worldwide (its retail arm), The Gap and Home Depot. To be fair, some of these had been planned but delayed by economic turmoil. And some of the companies like Home Depot have been big beneficiaries of spending shifts in the economy.
The CEO shuffle in the retail industry has been exacerbated by the disruptive effects of ecommerce, a trend that was well underway before the pandemic. A Conference Board report published in 2018 found that nearly one in four S&P 500 retailers had announced CEO changes in 2017, more than double the industry’s historical average rate of 10.5%.