Sears Names Gerstein CMO

Former Alberto-Culver Marketer's Mandate Is to Improve Customer Experience

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- Sears Holdings Corp. has named Richard Gerstein chief marketing officer for the ailing Sears, Roebuck & Co. brand.
Richard Gerstein
Richard Gerstein

Mr. Gerstein comes to Sears from the post of global chief marketing officer at Alberto-Culver Beauty, a position he held for about 25 months, where he oversaw brands such as Alberto V05 and St. Ives.

A shift in scale
The appointment not only represents an industry shift for Mr. Gerstein -- who has spent his entire career as a consumer products marketer -- but a major jump in terms of company size. Sears had revenue of nearly $29 billion in the U.S. in 2006, compared with just $1.4 billion at Alberto Culver. Additionally, Mr. Gerstein will oversee a much bigger advertising budget; the retailer spent $412 million in 2006, almost three times the $141 million spent at Alberto-Culver in 2006, according to TNS Media.

WPP Group's Y&R, Chicago, is Sears' creative agency; media for Sears Holdings is handled by Havas' MPG.

Beginning Aug. 6, Mr. Gerstein will report to Maureen McGuire, a former IBM marketer and Sears Holdings' CMO.

"With Richard's hiring, we add another seasoned executive to our bench of talent, and someone who has the creativity, talent and experience to help Sears reconnect with its loyal customers and attract former customers back to Sears," Ms. McGuire said in a press release, adding that among other things, Mr. Gerstein will be charged with improving customer experience.

The appointment comes a little more than a week after Sears reported same-store sales declined 4% at its domestic stores for the second quarter ended July 7.

Long-time P&G vet
Mr. Gerstein spent most of his career at Procter & Gamble Co., most notably at the shuttered, the failed venture aimed at creating a customized beauty-care business. P&G shut down the site in June 2005, after pouring millions into its development over a six-year period. Mr. Gerstein guided the venture from the beginning, first as chief marketing officer and later as CEO.

Mr. Gerstein replaces Joan Chow, who left the company in January, and was the last senior-level marketer to survive since hedge-fund manager Eddie Lampert took over the company following its acquisition by Kmart in November 2004.

In February, Ms. Chow was named CMO of ConAgra Foods. David Polston, VP-brand development at Sears, had been serving as interim CMO.

Whether Alberto Culver will replace Mr. Gerstein remains to be seen. "It's too new for us to say one way or the other whether we will replace him. Our CEO today, James Marino, has extensive experience in marketing and is very involved in marketing at Alberto," spokesman Doug Craney said.

Mr. Marino was named CEO of Alberto in November 2006, following the company's spin-off of Sally Beauty Holdings.
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