In a surprise move, Liz Rodbell has returned to the Hudson Bay Co., this time as president and chief executive officer of the Hudson’s Bay division in Canada.
Rodbell will officially join Hudson’s Bay on Friday. She succeeds Sophia Hwang-Judiesch, who according to HBC’s announcement Tuesday, is stepping down from Hudson’s Bay to pursue another opportunity.
Rodbell was most recently working as a consultant, as founder of LHR Advisors, and before that she served as Steve Madden’s group president of retail, accessories, licensing and direct-to-consumer for four years.
Prior to joining Madden, she ran Lord & Taylor as president when it was owned by HBC. She simultaneously served as president of Hudson’s Bay, which operates 83 department stores and has an e-commerce operation. Rodbell built a successful career at Lord & Taylor where she worked for 32 years, starting as a dress buyer.
“I am delighted to welcome Liz back to the HBC family and I am certain she will drive the continued transformation of Hudson’s Bay,” said Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of HBC. “When she was last with the company, Liz drove 22 percent sales growth for Hudson’s Bay.”
Baker credited Hwang-Judiesch for “leading us through a very challenging time in our industry. Sophia has been a driving force and a steady hand at Hudson’s Bay.”
“My focus, first and foremost, is on the customer — ensuring that we have the most relevant assortment, strong brand partners and an overall experience that is inspiring and relevant to our shoppers,” Rodbell said in her statement.
HBC also said Tuesday that Michael Culhane has been appointed chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Hudson’s Bay. Culhane has been serving as CFO of HBC since 2020. A spokeswoman told WWD that Hudson’s Bay did not have a COO previously.
Rodbell is among the only four women to have led Lord & Taylor since it was founded in 1826 as the nation’s first department store. The others were Dorothy Shaver, from 1945 to 1959; Jane Elfers, 2000 to 2008, and Vanessa LeFebvre, who succeeded Rodbell.
Rodbell presided over Lord & Taylor during downtrends, management integrations and streamlinings, but she grew L&T’s e-commerce business, including putting a Lord & Taylor store on walmart.com and implementing some omnichannel services like buy-online-pick-up-in-store, staging events tied to social media and targeting Millennials to offset L&T’s reputation as being “grandma’s” store. She also strengthened categories where Lord & Taylor historically did best, such as dresses and footwear.
From 2014 to June 2017, Rodbell was simultaneously president of L&T and Hudson’s Bay in Canada, after earlier serving as executive vice president and chief merchant of both businesses. Rodbell began her retail career in the executive training program at Abraham & Straus, which was absorbed by Macy’s in the early ’90s, before joining L&T as a dress buyer.
After Rodbell left L&T, HBC closed the Lord & Taylor Fifth Avenue flagship and a few other stores, and sold the remaining retail operations, intellectual property, digital channels and inventory to Le Tote. Le Tote and Lord & Taylor went bankrupt during the pandemic, but L&T was revived as an e-commerce site by The Saadia Group LLC in 2021.
Aside from Hudson’s Bay, the HBC retail portfolio includes two separate Saks Fifth Avenue companies, one for e-commerce and the other for stores, and two Saks Off 5th companies, one for e-commerce and one for stores. Up until about a year ago, the Hudson Bay brand was similarly split into two companies for the two channels, but has now been reengineered into one.