Specialty clothing retailer rue21 has appointed Bill Brand CEO. He has served as president of HSN and as chief retail officer of Carnival Corp., where he led teams to build sophisticated omnichannel infrastructures that drove revenue to record highs. Brand will take the helm from interim CEO John Fleming, who will return as a board member.
“We chose Bill because of his impressive track record in building high-performance teams and his industry-recognized leadership abilities to modernize retail brands,” says Fleming. “Under his leadership, we will leverage rue21’s recent growth by doubling down on omnichannel enhancements to create more compelling customer experiences.”
With nearly 700 stores in 45 states and 2.6 million social followers, the fashion retailer enjoyed store reopenings after pandemic closures that outperformed year-over-year monthly sales. Most recently, rue21’s business is up double digits compared to the total apparel market down 12% in September. The retailer recently opened new brick-and-mortar stores.
“This pandemic proved that our brand promise has significant staying power,” says Scott Vogel, rue21’s board chairman. “During one of the most tumultuous times in retail history, John brilliantly steered the brand to not only survive when myriad retailers liquidated, but thrive beyond our expectations. Now, Bill’s ability to build teams around understanding the customer at every touchpoint makes his appointment the next natural progression in accelerating rue21’s transformation.”
With a focus on experiential retail, Brand revamped the decades-old TV model into a more modern, digital and mobile experience. Through strategic partnerships with Hollywood studios like Disney and A-list celebrities, he challenged his teams to deliver attention-grabbing and relatable experiences to amplify the brand and accelerate sales. To further develop customer relationships and employee engagement, he launched an employee-led initiative that raised over millions for charities.
“The opportunity to grow a retail brand with such a strong foundation and brand commitment to fashion, affordability, and inclusivity humbles and thrills me,” says Brand. “Through creative partnerships and programs, we will bring our customers new experiences that will further connect them with one of the most compelling, yet under-the-radar brands in the U.S.”
Brand most recently was chief retail officer of Carnival, where he led the creation of a new retail arm for the $18 billion global cruise company that serves 13 million guests per year. Brand serves as vice chair of the National Retail Federation Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International and is on the board of directors of the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation.