Retail

Burlington poaches Ross exec to fill COO role


Dive Brief:

  • Burlington Stores named Travis Marquette as its new president and chief operating officer to oversee the off-price retailer’s stores, real estate, supply chain and information technology functions.
  • Up until Wednesday, Marquette served as chief financial officer at fellow off-pricer Ross Stores, which announced his resignation earlier this week. Ross COO Michael Hartshorn is overseeing Ross’ finance team until the company hires a new CFO.
  • Marquette is set to begin at Burlington in October, according to a securities filing. He replaces Fred Hand, who left in May to become Tuesday Morning’s CEO.

Dive Insight:

The off-price sector as a whole, and Burlington in particular, were uniquely hurt by the pandemic.

One of the bright spots in brick-and-mortar, off-pricers as a group have negligible digital operations. When stores shuttered and customers stayed home, there were few if any e-commerce sales to fall back on the way department stores, apparel sellers and other retailers did. Burlington, as it happened, signaled its exit from e-commerce just weeks before closing its stores because of the pandemic’s spread. 

Yet the sector’s post-pandemic future remains bright, even as consumers appear to have made some permanent changes in how they shop. Burlington’s first quarter performance is a useful microcosm of the entire sector. Its Q1 net sales nearly tripled year over year, growing about 175% to $2.2 billion.

The retailer had nowhere to go but up after 2020’s miserable Q1, with its store closures and grave economic uncertainty. But its Q1 sales this year are also up considerably from 2019. That could reflect stimulus payments, vaccine-fueled revenge shopping and the need to refresh wardrobes after a year of sweatpants.  

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Burlington is smaller than off-price powerhouses TJX Cos. and Ross, but is eyeing a larger presence. With the appointment of Marquette, it will have three former Ross executives and colleagues in the C-suite. (CEO Michael O’Sullivan served as Ross COO until joining Burlington in 2019, and Chief Merchandising Officer Jennifer Vecchio was at Ross for almost 15 years until 2011.)

Before becoming Ross CFO, Marquette had served in several operational management roles at Ross, including senior vice president of store operations. Telsey Advisory Group’s Dana Telsey described Marquette as a “good fit” for Burlington given his off-price experience and said that “his experience on both the financial and operational side of the business should prove to be beneficial to Burlington.”

Credit Suisse analyst Michael Binetti described Marqeutte’s hire as an “upgrade” of Burlington’s “already-strong” management team. 

Once he slides into the COO role at Burlington, Marquette will be taking on the retailer’s efforts to expand its store base and its “Burlington 2.0” strategy. The latter is centered on “opportunistic” product buying, running leaner inventories, investing in buying (including merchant head count) and planning, operational flexibility and smaller stores.

He’ll also have to navigate numerous supply chain challenges, including rising freight prices and constrained shipping and manufacturing capacity. 



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