Amid poor holiday seasons, lagging stock prices and angst about the long-term impact of the shift toward digital shopping, it appears retail CEOs are now on a very short leash.
High-end jeweler Tiffany & Co. (TIF) said Sunday that CEO Frederic Cumenal will step down effective immediately after less than two years on the job. Former CEO Michael Kowalski will serve as interim CEO in addition to his role as chairman.
"The Board is committed to our current core business strategies, but has been disappointed by recent financial results," Kowalski said in a statement. Kowalski should have reason to be disappointed in himself, too. It was Kowalski -- who was Tiffany's CEO from 1999 until his retirement in March 2015 -- that hired Cumenal away from Louis Vuitton in 2011 and groomed him to take over the top spot.
To be sure, Cumenal did little to impress during his tenure.
Tiffany's holiday sales fell 4% year over year in the Americas, with a 14% decline at the flagship Tiffany store on Fifth Avenue. Beyond this past holiday season, Tiffany has consistently had difficulty under Cumenal growing sales in key global markets.
Shares of Tiffany have nosedived about 9% since Cumenal officially took over as CEO on March 31, 2015, badly lagging the S&P 500's 11% gain.
If one is brave enough, however, now may be the time to trade Tiffany & Co. long based on two factors. First, the company didn't issue another earnings warning on Sunday. Second, Tiffany is now a sitting duck for an activist investor such as Bill Ackman (who was rumored to be circling the company months ago).
Meanwhile, time also recently ran out for another high-profile CEO after a brief stint in the corner office.
Ralph Lauren's (RL) CEO Stefan Larsson is departing on May 1 after disputes with company founder and namesake Ralph Lauren. Larsson joined the company in November 2015 after serving as the global president of Gap's (GPS) Old Navy division. Since then, he has attempted a complete overhaul of Ralph Lauren's business model headlined by cutting unprofitable clothing lines and shutting weak-performing stores. Larsson has also tried to speed up product deliveries and take control of Mr. Lauren's creative team, which didn't go over too well with the founder.
"Stefan and I share a love and respect for the DNA of this great brand, and we both recognize the need to evolve," Lauren said.
"However, we have found that we have different views on how to evolve the creative and consumer-facing parts of the business," Lauren continued.
Under Larsson, Ralph Lauren shares have plunged about 34%. Unlike Tiffany, however, there is no catalyst for Polo's shares. Not only is Mr. Lauren hindering the company's badly needed overhaul, the brand remains too reliant on dying department stores.
As for where the axe could (and should) swing next? Look no further than Gap (GPS) , which has struggled mightily under the two-year leadership of CEO Art Peck. Gap's stock has crashed roughly 45% since Peck took over on Feb. 1, 2015 amid declining sales, weak profits and broken promises.