TORONTO — Helena Foulkes has been named chief executive officer of Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC), an international department store and off-price retailer.
The move brings to an end a 25-year career at CVS Health, where Foulkes most recently served as corporate executive vice president and president of CVS Pharmacy, the company’s retail pharmacy business.
Following her departure, Kevin Hourican, executive vice president of retail pharmacy and supply chain at CVS Health, is running the company’s retail division on an interim basis. In that role he reports to CVS Health chief operating officer Jon Roberts.
A CVS spokeswoman said the company will conduct an internal and external search for a permanent replacement for Foulkes.
Founded in 1670, Toronto-based HBC is the oldest company in North America. On this continent it operates the upscale department store chains Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Hudson’s Bay as well as off-price retailers Saks Off 5th and Gilt. In Europe, HBC owns Galeria Kaufhof, Germany’s largest department store chain, and the Belgian department store group Galeria INNO.
In addition, HBC has significant shares in real estate joint ventures in Canada, the United States 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,” Foulkes said in a statement. “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.”
Foulkes has also been appointed to HBC’s board of directors. Richard Baker, who had been serving as acting interim CEO, continues as governor and executive chairman.
“Helena is a transformational leader who will invigorate the business with a new perspective as we position HBC for the future,” said Baker. “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.”
Foulkes was named president of CVS Pharmacy in January 2014, taking over the role from a former department store executive, Mark Cosby, who had been president of Macy’s Inc. In that role, she was responsible for the company’s traditional core business, which now encompasses approximately 9,700 drug stores, 20 distribution centers and e-commerce sites. In 2017 CVS Pharmacy was by far the most profitable part of the overall business, generating two-thirds of the company’s total operating profit and 43% of its revenues.
During her tenure the chain has been distinguished by ongoing innovation in patient/customer services, new partnerships and new store environments. For example, aided by such programs as its signature Pharmacy Advisor and ScriptSync, a system that enables patients with multiple medications to pick them all up at one time each month and manage them online, CVS has achieved higher adherence rates for patients with diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Among key partnerships developed during Foulkes’ tenure, last year CVS Pharmacy collaborated with Cigna Corp. to create Cigna Health Works. As a result, members of employer-sponsored medical plans administered by Cigna can utilize personalized patient support services that inform them of needed health actions by a pharmacist or clinician.
In addition, Foulkes is generally recognized as one of the architects of CVS’ strategy to become a leader in U.S. health care, including the decision to discontinue retail sales of tobacco products. As expected, that decision slammed CVS Pharmacy’s sales and resulted in lower customer traffic at the front end.
To offset the anticipated impact, Foulkes and her team developed a diversified strategy to attract new customers. A broad portfolio of healthy food and snacks was introduced, occupying key real estate near the front of the store and at the checkout. That program tied in neatly with a broader initiative to increase overall private label sales, including the Gold Emblem and Gold Emblem Abound snack and grocery lines. By the end of 2017, sales of private label goods had grown to claim nearly 24% of all front-end revenues.
In addition, CVS has upgraded its beauty departments with streamlined displays and exclusive brand offerings geared to attracting a younger shopper than the core pharmacy patient.
Before taking the reins of the retail pharmacy business, Foulkes had served since March 2011 as executive vice president and chief health care strategy and marketing officer for the corporation. Prior to that she had been executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Before joining CVS in 1992, she worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Tiffany & Co. In a sense then, Foulkes’ current move represents a return to her roots in high-end retailing.