Non-merchants at the top of retailers: A smart move?

Dominick’s recently hired a new CEO with a financial (rather than merchandising) background to lead the company. The topic comes up occasionally on RetailWire, and here is my opinion:

Despite my own background, I don’t think being a merchant is a mandatory background for a retail CEO. However, I do think it’s critical that the executive in charge has a chance to develop a comfort level with the thought process, even if he or she comes from the world of finance, store management or logistics. (Lee Scott at Walmart, for example, was an expert in supply chain management.) Most importantly, the CEO needs to put a strong merchant in charge as #2 in the absence of his own skill set, and trust the team around him or her to get the job done.

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