July 2, 2015 / 4:10 PM / in 2 years

Sears Canada CEO quits amid turnaround to join Barnes & Noble

(Reuters) - Sears Canada Inc SCC.TO Chief Executive Ronald Boire will leave the Canadian retailer in the midst of a turnaround to take over the top job at struggling U.S. bookstore chain Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N).

A Barnes & Noble book store is seen in Encinitas, California March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Sears Canada will now lose its second CEO since September as the company tries to reverse a trend of six straight years of falling sales.

“I think that this is an unfortunate event for Sears Canada as Ron Boire was starting to build some positive momentum,” said Bruce Winder, an independent retail consultant.

Under Boire, Sears Canada in May posted its slowest same-store sales decline in five quarters as his moves to spend more on profitable merchandise categories, its website, and exit money-losing product lines paid off.

Barnes & Noble is itself struggling against online retailers such as Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and consumers’ preference for e-books. The company plans to spin off its fast-growing college books business from its retail bookstores and Nook businesses, where sales have been falling for at least a year.

Boire will first become CEO of Barnes & Noble’s retail division in September and then replace Michael Huseby as CEO after the company spins off its college books business, Barnes & Noble said on Thursday.

Winder called Boire a merchant and said, “whenever you put in merchant at the top of a retailer I find that good things happen usually.”

Boire has previously been chief merchandising officer of Sears and Kmart at Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O), till October the largest shareholder in Sears Canada. He was also merchandise manager at electronics retailer Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N).

Sears Canada said Boire would leave at the end of the summer and Chairman Brandon Stranzl would become executive chairman to help carry out the company’s current strategy.

Huseby will remain CEO of Barnes & Noble until the college books business is spun off and will then become executive chairman of the new company. This company, to be called Barnes & Noble Education will continue to be led by current CEO Max Roberts, Barnes & Noble has previously said.

Barnes & Noble’s shares were up 1.2 percent at $26.06 in late morning trading, while Sears Canada’s were flat at C$7.55.

Reporting by Ramkumar Iyer and Sneha Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza

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