NEW YORK — Helena Foulkes has taken the position of chief executive officer of Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC), which operates the Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue department store chains. She joins HBC from CVS Health, where she worked for 25 years, most recently as corporate executive vice president and president of CVS Pharmacy, the company’s retail business, since January 2014.
“Helena is a transformational leader who will invigorate the business with a new perspective as we position HBC for the future,” says Richard Baker, executive chairman and governor of HBC, who has also been acting as interim CEO. “Throughout her 25-year tenure in retail, she has a proven track record of making bold, strategic choices that, at their core, put the customer first and have proven enormously impactful to business success. The board and I are thrilled to have Helena take the helm and bring her invaluable experience to the company.”
Ironically, when Foulkes took leadership of CVS’ retail pharmacy business, she succeeded a former department store executive, Mark Cosby, who had been president of Macy’s Inc. before serving as president of CVS Pharmacy between late 2011 and January 2014. Foulkes oversaw strategy formulation and operations of the retail arm, which encompasses approximately 9,700 drug stores, 20 distribution centers and e-commerce sites.
She is credited with being an architect of CVS’ strategy of becoming a leader in U.S. health care and with helping drive the company’s decision to discontinue retail sales of tobacco products in 2014. As expected, though, that decision slammed CVS’ top line, trimming roughly $2 billion in retail sales.
Reigniting sales and profit growth in the retail business has proven challenging, as pharmacy reimbursement rates have pressured pharmacy margins and the recent exclusion of CVS from some restricted pharmacy networks has impacted same-store pharmacy sales and prescription counts. At the same time, front-end same-store sales have decreased for the last two years, reflecting declining customer traffic and, perhaps, an initiative to rationalize promotional strategies and focus on more profitable sales.
Before her elevation to president of CVS Pharmacy, Foulkes was executive VP and chief health care strategy and marketing officer for CVS, a role that she took on in March 2011 after serving as executive VP and chief marketing officer. Before joining CVS in 1992, she worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and at Tiffany & Co.
Foulkes is a graduate of Harvard College and holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. Among many professional honors earned during her career, she has been named to the Fortune “Most Powerful Women in Business” list and was recognized by Fast Company as one of its “Most Creative People in Business.”
At HBC, Foulkes will lead an international portfolio of more than 480 stores consisting mainly of high-end department stores but also including off-price fashion outlets. In addition to Lord & Taylor and Saks, the HBC network encompasses Saks Off 5th; Gilt; Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Co.; Galeria Kaufhof, Germany’s largest department store chain; and the Belgian department store group Galeria INNO.
HBC is the oldest company in North America, having been founded in 1670. In addition to its retail operations, the company has significant stakes in real estate joint ventures in Canada, the U.S. and Germany.
“HBC has an amazing portfolio of retail banners, valuable real estate and an innovative approach to M&A that give it the ability to win,” remarks Foulkes. “The future of retail will be defined by companies that think creatively about where the consumer and the world are headed. I look forward to working with this great team and listening deeply to them and to our partners to build upon strategies that capitalize on HBC’s physical and digital assets and deepen our core operating effectiveness.”
At CVS, Foulkes has been replaced on an interim basis by Kevin Hourican, executive VP of retail pharmacy and supply chain. He reports to Jon Roberts, the company’s chief operating officer.
Hourican was promoted to his current position in June 2016 after filling a number of roles at CVS. He joined the company as senior VP of field operations and supply chain for the Eastern Region in 2012 from Macy’s Inc., where he was senior VP and director of stores for the retailer’s Mid-Atlantic region.