Struggling retailer Pier 1 Imports names AlixPartners advisor as interim CFO

23 April 2019 3 min. read

Texas-based home goods retailer Pier 1 Imports has appointed Deborah Rieger-Paganis, a managing director at AlixPartners, as its interim chief financial officer.

As the brick-and-mortar retail sector continues to be hammered by consumer shifts to online shopping, Pier 1 Imports is one of many traditional retailers attempting to stay afloat.

The retail market has been a fairly inhospitable environment to large incumbents in the past decade, despite a strong overall economy. Payless Shoes and Gymboree recently filed for bankruptcy, and will shutter all or most of their stores. The US division of Toys R Us shut down last year, while Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After winning a bankruptcy auction, Sears aims to forge ahead with a streamlined footprint of 400 stores.

Things aren’t projected to improve for retailers in the short- or long-term, however. Coresight Research expects more than 6,500 stores to close in the US this year, while UBS Securities estimates that 75,000 stores will be shuttered by 2026 if e-commerce penetration rises from its current level of 16% to 25%.

Struggling retailer Pier 1 Imports names AlixPartners advisor as interim CFO

Pier 1 Imports, meanwhile, closed 30 of its stores in the fiscal year ending in March. The firm reported that its same-store sales fell 13.7% in the quarter that included Christmas.

According to Bloomberg News, Pier 1 has been working on a comeback plan for months. In December, however, the firm canned its CEO and scrapped his turnaround plan, bringing in interim CEO Cheryl Bachelder, who previously righted the ship at fast-food chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

Pier 1 also brought in AlixPartners, a consulting firm known for its expertise in restructuring and turnaround, to help build a new strategy.

The company has now named AlixPartners managing director Deborah Rieger-Paganis as its interim chief financial officer, replacing outgoing CFO Nancy Walsh. Rieger-Paganis has more than 30 years of experience leading and improving retail firms’ finance organization and business operations.

During her 17 years at AlixPartners, Rieger-Paganis has served as an advisor and interim CFO to numerous companies, including Aritzia, Toms Shoes, and Cirque du Soleil.

Before joining the consultancy, she was senior vice president of financial planning and analysis at MasterCard, and vice president of finance at clothing retailer Ann Taylor. Rieger-Paganis began her career at Touche Ross (now Deloitte), where she spent over a decade. 

“Deb has a wealth of finance, retail industry and turnaround experience, and we are pleased to have her join the Pier 1 team,” Cheryl Bachelder, interim CEO, said. “Deb has worked closely with the leadership team in a consulting capacity in recent months, and I am confident her expertise will continue to be a valuable asset in leading our finance organization.”

According to Bachelder, the company and its advisors have built a fiscal 2020 plan to reset cost structures and build momentum. Rieger-Paganis’ expanded role will help the firm execute on its turnaround plans.

“I look forward to working closely with Cheryl and the rest of the management team as we continue to focus on Pier 1’s priorities for fiscal 2020,” Rieger-Paganis said. “Over the past four months, Pier 1 has been building more structure and rigor into the planning processes across key areas of the business and operations. I am committed to instilling financial discipline across the organization as we work to drive a successful turnaround and create value for shareholders over the long-term.”

After reporting its troubling fiscal year results last week, Pier 1’s share prices fell 22%. The company’s stock risks being delisted from the NYSE if it spends much more time below $1, according to Bloomberg News.