Talk about an executive who likes a challenge.
Ron Boire, Sears Holdings' new executive vice president and chief merch andising officer, has been through three turnarounds since leaving Sony Electronics in 2003 as head of consumer sales. After stints at Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, and most recently, Brookstone, Boire, 50, now aims to rebuild a faltering 126-year-old company while cutting jobs and closing stores.
"There are areas where Sears can be more focused and make a more impactful presentation," said Boire. "We think about it like theater."
Sears has struggled since its 2005 merger with Kmart, said Gary Balter, a retail analyst at Credit Suisse. Both retailers took additional hits when consumer spending froze during the recession. But Sears had problems long before then.
"Sears has been a secondary retailer for as long as I can remember," said Balter. "The company has been in 'turnaround mode' for the past 20 years or more."
Last month Sears said it would close between 100 to 120 of its 4,000 stores. That could result in as many as 9,600 job eliminations. "Right now, Sears is facing real pressure from its competitors and making the tough decision of how to deal with its stores that aren't contributing to the company's bottom line," said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Sears wouldn't comment on possible layoffs.
Boire lives for those kinds of challenges, said Robert Willett, 65, a former Best Buy senior manager who served as the company's chief information officer and chief executive of Best Buy International. Willett worked with Boire from 2003 until 2006 when Boire was executive vice president and global general merch andise manager in charge of the company's product strategy and vendor management.
"He brought a lot of good thinking there," said Willett, who retired from Best Buy in January 2010. "Ron is an optimist. I imagine he saw a challenge with Sears and wanted to make a difference. There are a lot of opportunities there for him to reinvent things, so it's good for him."
At Brookstone, where he was chief executive for just two years, Boire revamped the company's website and mobile offerings to boost the number of products the specialty retailer sells online. Brookstone reported an operating loss of $8.8 million in last year's third quarter compared to $14.1 million in the previous year's quarter.
"I am disappointed to see Ron leave Brookstone so soon," said Willet. "That turnaround is still in progress." Boire's tenure at Brookstone was shorter than his stay at Toys "R" Us and Best Buy. He spent three years at each of those retailers. "Ron has butterflies a bit," said Willett. "He certainly has jumped around since he left Sony."
Boire said that in his previous roles he helped drive sales through his underst anding of how to market products and attract customers. "If you look at Best Buy, when I was there we launched Geek Squad and created a premier integrated service," he said. "We also took our television strategy to the next level and changed the way people bought home theater."
Boire gained a reputation for great merch andising at Brookstone. "Underneath Ron's friendly, 'walk the halls' style is a leader with laser sharp retailing instincts," Brookstone's 36-year-old chief operating officer James Speltz wrote in an email to FINS. "All of us enjoyed collaborating with him in building an innovative and edgy line of products. We are confident Ron will bring the same efforts to Sears."
At Sears Holdings, Boire plans to increase online sales by further integrating the company's in-store products with those offered through Sears' and Kmart's websites, catalogs and mobile applications. "I have been interacting with many of the people here and universally they all have the attitude of 'I will do whatever it takes to help make Sears great again,'" he said.
"This is a great start," Boire said. "The people here have welcomed me and acknowledged that we have a huge opportunity and responsibility together."
Write to Damian Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com