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New Year, New Faces: Tech Retailers Take On New Roles

The New Year brought a flurry of executive changes to tech and appliance retail.

None were more sweeping than at Conn’s, where a new retail management team was put in place following the retirement of division president David Trahan on Jan. 1.

Trahan stepped down after three decades with the company, including the last eight as retail president — a period of massive expansion when the business grew from 20 to 113 stores and $100 million to $1.3 billion in sales.

But Conn’s retail segment has suffered in recent quarters as tightened lending terms, intended to trim losses in the chain’s in-house financing arm, took a toll on merchandise sales.

Trahan was succeeded by Coleman “CR” Gaines, formerly store operations executive VP at TMX Finance, where he ran a 1,300-store chain of consumer finance shops serving subprime customers under the TitleMax and TitleBucks brands.

Reporting to Coleman are new recruits Casey Chung (Caleres/Famous Footwear, Gap, Blockbuster, Walmart) as logistics VP, and Home Depot and Sears veteran David Hutchinson as service VP.

Last month Conn’s also named a new chief accounting officer, George Bchara, formerly of BankUnited, to succeed Mark Haley.

At the same time, Trahan’s son Aaron, a merchandising VP, left Conn’s after 14 years to join hhgregg as chief merchandising officer, filling a void left by last fall’s departure of CE retail vet Keith Zimmerman.

In announcing the appointment, hhgregg president/CEO Robert Riesbeck cited Trahan’s track record in improving processes, optimizing the assortment and maximizing profits for a merchandise mix of majaps, furniture and CE that hhgregg is emulating.

Elsewhere, Best Buy shareholders breathed a sigh of relief last week when chairman/CEO Hubert Joly flatly denied rumors that he might leave to helm Carrefour, the French hypermarket chain.

Word of his possible departure came from a report in Brazilian newspaper, picked up by Reuters, which cited Joly as a leading contender to succeed Carrefour’s current CEO Georges Plassat, whose term ends next year.

“There have been reports that I am being considered for a CEO role at another company,” Joly posted on Best Buy’s corporate website. “Let me be clear, I am fully committed to Best Buy’s continued transformation and have absolutely no plans to leave.”

A former Carlson and Vivendi CEO who joined Best Buy in 2012, Joly is credited with resuscitating the flagging CE chain by cutting costs, revamping its supply chain, overhauling e-commerce operations and enlisting vendors to help subsidize his sales floors.

Speaking of Best Buy, the chain’s former services president and onetime head of Home Depot services George Sherman has joined authorized Verizon retailer A Wireless as CEO.

In his new post, Sherman — previously president and interim CEO of Advance Auto Parts and a past Target VP — will preside over a billion-dollar chain with 1,140-locations across 46 states. The company is one of only six National Premium Retailers designated by Verizon Wireless, which also named it 2016 Partner of the Year.

Also in the news: Longtime industry veteran Jim Sendrak, who is retiring from Mega Group USA, his home for the past 17 years.

Sendrak, who served as the buying group’s CE and marketing executive VP, will stay on in an advisory role through March 31 to help his successors’ transitions. His marketing duties will be assumed by marketing director Amanda Evans, although a CE heir was not announced.