By Michelle Graff
Tiffany CEO Frederic Cumenal has stepped down, effective immediately. He was with the retailer for six years, starting as an executive vice president before taking over for Michael Kowalski upon his retirement in March 2015. (Photo Credit: Jason Schmidt)
New York--Before its first Super Bowl ad aired Sunday, Tiffany & Co. made another major announcement--its CEO Frederic Cumenal has stepped down, effective immediately.

Former CEO Michael Kowalski, who led the retailer for 16 years before retiring in March 2015, will take his place as interim CEO while the jeweler searches for a permanent replacement. Kowalski also will continue as chairman of Tiffany’s board of directors.
20170206 Mike KowalskiMichael Kowalski

News of Cumenal’s seemingly sudden and immediate departure follows a long period of flat or declining sales for the retailer, including disappointing back-to-back holiday seasons.

While the retailer is not scheduled to release its fourth quarter and full-year 2016 fiscal year results until March 17, Tiffany reported last month that in the Americas, November-December comps and total sales were down 4 percent year-over-year. It blamed its faltering in sales in part on the decline in foot traffic at its Fifth Avenue flagship caused by the increased security at Trump Tower.

Cumenal’s departure is the second big shake-up for the company in recent weeks. In mid-January, Tiffany announced that design director Francesca Amfitheatrof was leaving the company after less than four years and would be replaced by Reed Krakoff.

In a news release announcing Cumenal’s exit, Kowalski said that Tiffany’s board has been “disappointed” by recent financial results, and said that they feel the retailer is not moving fast enough to make the changes “necessary to compete more effectively in today’s global luxury market.”

This includes possible store closures--which Kowlaski termed as “optimizing the store network”--enhancing the customer experience, increasing the rate of new product introductions, maximizing marketing effectiveness, and improving business processes and operations.

Tiffany’s list of goals are not unlike those listed by Signet Jewelers Ltd. when they announced the retirement of two longtime executives last week and the creation of two new executive positions focused on the customer experience and retail insights and strategy.

Cumenal became CEO in March 2015.

He joined Tiffany in 2011 as executive vice president in charge of worldwide sales and distribution.

The New York-based jeweler promoted Cumenal to president in 2013 and expanded his role to include design, merchandising and marketing functions. He also was appointed to the board of directors at that time.

Tiffany said it has hired a “leading executive search firm” to help it find a replacement for Cumenal.

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