by Kevin Coupe

The Washington Post has a story about how tough it is to keep your job if you are a retail CEO these days.

Here's how the Post frames the story:

"The retail industry, already reeling from high-profile bankruptcies and thousands of store closures in recent years, is facing a new challenge — churn at the top.

"Gap chief executive Art Peck abruptly stepped down this week after six straight quarters of declining sales for its flagship brand and a steep drop-off in the retailer’s stock price. Nike, Under Armour and Bed Bath & Beyond announced similar shake-ups recently, extending the run of C-level departures that have touched more than a dozen major retailers this year, including Best Buy, eBay, Calvin Klein and Overstock.

"The turmoil comes as traditional retailers struggle to keep pace with online competitors. Corporate boards, experts say, are less willing to wait for large-scale turnarounds. That could become even more pronounced, they said, if the economy sours."

Some context:

"A record 172 CEOs left their jobs across all sectors in October, a 15 percent increase from the year-ago period, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
CEO turnover at publicly traded retailers rose to 23 percent in 2017, the last year for which sector-specific numbers are available, vs. 16 percent the year before, according to a study of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies by the Conference Board. By comparison, the industry’s historical average is 10.5 percent."

In some ways, this shouldn't be surprising. Running a big retail business is harder than ever, especially at a public company where one is responsible to shareholders and has to be sensitive to the investor class. But at the same time, more than ever retailers have to be focused on values as well as value … have to work on a broader, omnichannel canvas that is more complex than ever … have to think about issues like work-life balance and employee fulfillment at a time of low unemployment … think about things like diversity and sexual harassment …. need to focus on the front lines more than ever before … and have to do all this while dealing with behemoths like Amazon and Walmart.

Not easy. Not simple. And certainly not for people who find any comfort in the business practices of yesterday.

High churn levels at the top of the retail business? Not surprising, but still an Eye-Opener.