Retail News: Smyth Jewelers Sues Former COO, VP, Others
Timonium, MD—The Albert S. Smyth Co., better known as Smyth Jewelers (left, image by Costar Group), has filed suit against former COO Mark Motes, former vice president of operations John Jackson, and two other former employees, alleging they took trade secrets and customer information to open a competing jewelry store. Motes and Jackson exited the 103-year-old family-owned jeweler last fall, when third-generation cousins Tom and Bob Smyth and Leonard "Buzz" Getschel took back control of the business after stepping back in 2007.
Mason Motes, Mark Motes’s son and former in-house designer for Smyth, and Brian McCullough, another former Smyth employee, were also named in the suit as part of the new business. According to articles in both in the Baltimore Business Journal and The Baltimore Sun, the new store will be called Meritage Fine Jewelers and will be located in Lutherville, MD, less than a mile from Smyth’s flagship location in Timonium.
A spokesperson from Meritage told The Centurion that Mark Motes is no longer with the company but declined to comment further. Motes confirmed his departure to The Centurion but also declined to comment further.
Smyth had originally filed suit against Motes in February; the May 31 suit, filed in federal district court instead of Baltimore circuit court, is an amended version that includes the other defendants and, in addition to the original claims, also alleges that Motes violated non-compete terms of his employment contract. Motes’s attorney told the Journal he denies all wrongdoing and will vigorously defend against all allegations in court and expects to be fully vindicated.
At press time, executives from Smyth could not be reached for comment, but Steve Fedder, an attorney for Smyth, told the Sun "They've got everything they need to replicate our business."
Shakeup At Blue Nile: Kanter Out; Target.com Head In
Seattle, WA—Harvey Kanter is out as CEO of Blue Nile, though he will remain chairman of the company’s board of directors and, according to reports, continue to have an important role in strategic decisions. Meanwhile, Jason Goldberger, former chief digital officer and president of Target.com, and whose pedigree also includes stints at Amazon, Gilt Groupe, and Hayneedle, has been appointed CEO of the e-commerce jeweler, recently acquired by Bain & Co.
Kanter, who was instrumental in introducing brick and mortar showrooms, or “webrooms,” was CEO for five years. Read more here.
More Cutbacks Announced At Sears; Saks/Lord & Taylor
New York, NY—Both Sears Holding Corp. and HBC, parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, have announced job cuts. According to reports, 400 fulltime positions will be eliminated throughout the Sears organization, which includes Kmart. The job loss tally does include the 42 Sears and 108 Kmart locations that closed earlier this year, but it’s rumored more store closures are coming.
Separately, HBC, which in addition to Saks and Lord & Taylor, also operates Saks Off Fifth, Hudson’s Bay, online retailer Gilt, and two European chains, announced 2,000 layoffs in “an effort to flatten the organization and make it more nimble.” Both stores' travails reflect the ongoing challenges to brick-and-mortar retail: same-store comps at Sears Holdings were down 12% year on year; at HBC same-store comps were down 3% year on year, although online sales were up 6%. Read more here.