After leading troubled teen retailer Wet Seal through extensive restructuring over the past year, Ed Thomas is stepping down from his role as chief executive officer, the company announced Monday, and will be replaced by board member Melanie Cox.
“I’m glad to have been able to bring Wet Seal back to solid ground after its long period of uncertainty,” Thomas said in a statement, adding that the retailer—which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January and was acquired by private-equity firm Versa Capital in an auction in March—is now in “able hands.” “I decided it’s the right time for me to step back after a grueling process and evaluate other opportunities.”
Cox, who joined the board six months ago, is a 25-year-plus veteran of such retail chains as Urban Outfitters, Gymboree and Scoop and, in her own words, “spent some early years as a merchant and head of product development helping [Wet Seal] grow from a small 11-store chain in Southern California.” “This is a brand I have known for decades,” she said, adding, “I am excited to collaborate with our Southern California management team, our store associates and our customers across the country to achieve Wet Seal’s tremendous potential.”
Gregory Segall, chairman of Wet Seal and Versa Capital CEO, echoed this sentiment and thanked Thomas for taking “decisive steps at critical moments” over the past year, which included closing 388 of its stores and laying off 3,695 full- and part-time employees. “For that reason it stands today as a survivor with a bright future in a landscape littered with many other retailers that could not make the same transition,” he said.
The clothing chain currently operates 171 stores in 41 states as well as an e-commerce site.