Retail Experts: Kmart's New C.E.O. the Right Choice

TROY, Mich. - Kmart Holding Corp.'s appointment of a new president and c.e.o. may indicate the beginning of an initiative to overhaul the company's image - a positive move, according to retail analysts.

Kmart said yesterday that it had hired Aylwin Lewis, former president, c.o.o., and chief multibranding officer of the restaurant company Yum Brands Inc., where he spent 13 years of his 26-year career in the restaurant business. Lewis succeeds Julian Day, who will stay on Kmart's board of directors to ease the leadership handover.

"He is the ideal leader and agent for change for Kmart at this time," Kmart chairman Edward Lampert said of Lewis in a statement. While Day was able to secure the retailer's finances, Kmart was in need of someone to market its brand to younger consumers, analysts agree.

According to Richard Hastings, v.p. - retail-sector analyst at New York-based Bernard Sands: "In merchandise retailing, if you don't have the toaster that one customer wants so badly, you're not toast, but in the restaurant business, if you burn somebody's eggs or give poor service to only a few customers, you're toast for real. This is one of the reasons that Lewis, a restaurant-branding chief, could help Kmart cook up some better images and store experiences.

"It is also possible that bringing in a c.e.o. with other industry connections could be helpful to enter into very interesting licensed restaurant departments in the stores," Hastings continued. "The existing Kmart stores are typically too big for the current merchandising strategy, and changes in utilization of existing space could be an interesting solution to the modernization cost and space issues."

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