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What the Major CEO Moves at Under Armour, Brooks and Allbirds Mean for a Recovering Shoe Industry in 2024

It’s only March, but it’s already been a whirlwind year for top executive shuffles.

In this past week alone, Brooks, Allbirds and Under Armour all announced CEOs departures and internal replacements for the roles. Since the start of the year, even more shoe companies — including Deckers Brands, Crocs and Fila — have announced major shifts at the CEO and brand president level.

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The latest wave of CEO changes comes after a 2023 characterized by turnaround and reinvention across several shoe and retail brands. In some cases, companies sought out new leaders with a clear vision to lead them through an industry plagued with inflation, foreign exchange headwinds, an oversaturated North American athletic footwear market and cost-conscious consumers.

In 2024, many of these challenges have persisted. And the recent slew of shoe executive changes — all of which led to an internally promoted successor — suggest a deliberate and planned decision to bring new life into the top spot amid a turbulent environment for the industry.

For example, Jim Weber stepped aside as CEO of Brooks after 23 years in the role to make way for president and chief operating officer Dan Sheridan. At Deckers, chief commercial officer Stefano Caroti will take over as CEO in the wake of Dave Powers’ retirement in August. At, Allbirds, which has struggled more than Brooks or Deckers in 2023, co-founder and CEO Joey Zwillinger stepped down this week as chief operating officer Joe Vernachio ascended to the role amid a broader transformation plan at the company.

“The wheels of succession have been turning for some time,” explained Liza Amlani, principal and founder of consulting company Retail Strategy Group.

In the case of Stephanie Linnartz’s sudden departure from Under Armour after a year as CEO, it’s unclear how long Linnartz’ departure was in the works for, but her sudden exit came amid a broader reinvention of the brand.

According to managing director of GlobalData Neil Saunders, Linnartz’s replacement by founder Kevin Plank is “emblematic of a brand that can’t quite decide which direction it wants to go in.”

“Culturally, Under Armour is a very difficult company to lead,” Saunders said. “It still retains much of the DNA from its founding, and Kevin Plank has very distinct views about the brand and how the company should be run.”

More generally, it’s not a surprise for companies to slate CEO turnovers for the end or start of a fiscal year. And this year, turnover was especially high in January — across all industries.

According to data from executive outplacement firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas Inc., 194 U.S. companies reported CEO changes in January, which marked the highest total of CEO exits since January 2020, when 219 chiefs left their roles. In the retail industry, CEO turnover was higher this past January than the prior year, with six exits compared to three the prior year.

“During this time, CEOs and their boards are looking at what has to be accomplished in the new year and if they have a team that is ready and capable to do this,” explained Craig Rowley, a senior client partner in the consumer sector for consulting firm Korn Ferry said. “It works both ways: tenured CEOs that are considering their career may decide it is time to move on. Boards may decide that a new skill set is needed.”

This general trend, combined with a shoe industry in flux since the pandemic, has made for a broad need for new leaders at the top right now.

“The footwear industry has had to transform into a more digitally enabled and agile business model, which requires a new kind of leader,” Rowley said. “Add to this the uncertain economy and it was a prime time for both CEOs and boards to ask if now is the time for a change at the top?”

Meanwhile, in the last week, several shoe and retail companies expressed caution for 2024 after a broadly difficult fourth quarter. These results are indicative that the obstacles of 2023 have yet to fully abate.

“We are still going to see challenges throughout 2024,” explained Carolyn McCall, founder and CEO of McCall Brand Advisors. “With the speed of the digital world, the expectation is a bit unrealistic as to how quickly turnaround plans can be executed.”

Plus, she added, a contentious U.S. presidential election will likely make for some additional anxiety for retailers and brands if consumers decide to pull back on spending during that time.

“Even as major companies are doing a great job of implementing transformation plans, it’s not going to happen overnight,” McCall said. “And then you’ve got that snag at the end of the year with the presidential election that may cause consumers to put a few brakes on.”

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