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First Francis, now fashion director Robinson bolts for JCP

The outside world doesn’t have a lot of visibility into the bench strength of Target’s leadership team beyond the top tier of executives so it’s hard to know whether the company has the talent it needs to fill the void created by high profile defections to rival JCPenney.

Of course, the same thing used to be said about Walmart back when the company’s first generation of leadership retired or pursued new opportunities following Sam Walton’s death 20 years ago next month. However, Walmart is bigger than the sum of its parts and easily withstood the departure of seemingly indispensible executives who were subsequently replaced with even more talented leaders. The same is likely to be true in the case of Target, but in the short run the loss of leadership has the appearance of being disruptive. The most recent example involves the departure of director of fashion and design partnerships, Brian Robinson, who left to become VP marketing and design partnerships at JCPenney.

“As we fundamentally re-imagine every aspect of our business, we’re tapping into the best internal and external talent in the industry, said JCPenney president Michael Francis, who prior to joining JCPenney last fall served as EVP marketing for Target. “We’re focused on building a world-class organization that will be instrumental in delivering a revolutionary shopping experience that is unlike anything that exists in retail today. We will continue to look both internally and externally as we build an organization to accomplish this goal.”

The position Francis vacated at Target has yet to be filled.

Meanwhile, it seems JCPenney can’t promote, hire and restructure fast enough as it looks to transform its business with a grand plan envisioned by CEO Ron Johnson to become America’s favorite store.

In the latest round of personnel moves, Liz Sweney, who has been with JCPenney since 2000, was tapped to lead the company’s merchandise strategy as chief merchant and will oversee the reinvention of JCPenney’s apparel and home portfolio. Prior to this role, Sweney served as EVP and senior general merchandise manager of JCPenney’s women’s apparel, accessories, footwear, jewelry and juniors divisions as well Sephora.

Following her promotion, Sweney promoted Siiri Dougherty to SVP/GMM of women's apparel and named Liz Asay SVP of Sephora inside JCPenney.

Katheryn Burchett was named SVP merchandising and marketing integration. Anne Cashill was appointed SVP strategic brands after previously serving as VP merchandising at Coach Inc to develop and strengthen JCPenney's exclusive and national merchandise partnerships such as Liz Claiborne, Martha Stewart and l'amour Nanette Lepore.

Bill Gentner was also named SVP strategic brands, responsible for private brands such as The Original Arizona Jean Company and Xersion.

Steve Seabolt was named SVP strategic brand alliances to oversee the identification and development of non-apparel partnerships. Seabolt joins JCPenney from Electronic Arts, where he served as VP global brand partnerships.

Helping to lead JCPenney's brand makeover will be Eric Hunter as SVP marketing. He will be responsible for the company's marketing strategy, media buying, customer insights and loyalty programs. Hunter joins JCpenney from the Kellwood Co., where he most recently held the position of chief marketing officer and group president.

JCPenney veteran Greg Clark has been promoted to SVP creative. In his role, Clark, who previously served as VP creative, is responsible for bringing the JCPenney brand to life through the company's advertising efforts. Prior to joining JCPenney, Clark held executive creative positions at retailers including Toys"R"Us, Lane Bryant and Marshall Fields.

Overseeing JCPenney's new store experience will be Mike Fisher as SVP visual presentation. He will be responsible for the company's new store experience, including features the company refers to as the Street, the Shop and a new center of store concept that has yet to be unveiled called the Square.

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