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Macy's chief merchant named president in possible succession move

People are reflected in a window outside the Macy's department store in New York, November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
People are reflected in a window outside the Macy's department store in New York, November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Macy's Inc said on Monday it promoted its chief merchandising officer, Jeffrey Gennette, to president of the company, in a move that positions him to potentially become the retailer's next chief executive.

In addition to continuing to serve as Macy's Inc's chief merchant, Gennette will manage Macy's in-house brands, such as INC, which generate 20 percent of company revenue. Gennette also oversees the department store chain's marketing and e-commerce.

The chief executive of Macy's, Terry Lundgren, who is giving up the title of president, declined to say whether the appointment was connected to the company's succession planning. But he said the promotion was an endorsement of Gennette's importance to the retailer.

"It's a clear message that this is one of our top-performing individuals to give him such as huge responsibility," Lundgren, 62, told Reuters in an interview.

Lundgren has been CEO since February 2003. On his watch, Macy's has pulled ahead of rivals such as J.C. Penney Co Inc , Kohl's Corp and Sears Holdings in terms of growth.

Gennette's promotion shows Macy's continues to see merchandising skills as essential in a future CEO, said Walter Loeb, president of retail consulting firm Loeb Associates, noting Macy's long tradition of naming merchants to its top job.

"They've appointed an excellent merchant," Loeb said. "The only way a retailer has a direction, a point of view for the consumer, is through the merchandise."

Gennette, 52, will continue to be based in New York. In his new role, he will have no responsibility for the upscale Bloomingdale's chain, which is owned by Macy's Inc.

Gennette has been Macy's chief merchant since 2009. He started with Macy's in 1983, when he worked at Macy's West as an executive trainee. Since then, his stints at the company have included CEO of Macy's West and Macy's Northwest.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Leslie Adler)

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