Indigo founder Heather Reisman returns as CEO as sales flag

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Indigo Books & Music Inc. founder Heather Reisman is returning as chief executive officer a mere year after relinquishing the top job at the books retailer, a move that follows the abrupt resignation of former CEO Peter Ruis.

Markus Dohle, the chair of the board of directors’ human resources, compensation and governance committee, said in a release that Reisman’s reappointment to the top job was a key step in returning Indigo to growth amid stagnating sales.

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“More than ever, Heather’s unique experience is needed as we work to bring Indigo back to profitable growth,” he said.

“We know Heather’s deep understanding of the Indigo brand as the country’s leading voice on books and reading, and her commitment to the business, combined with a very special and dedicated organization, will put the company on the right trajectory.”

Shares of Indigo rose as much as 20 per cent in the wake of the news.

In conjunction with Reisman’s return, the company also announced current chief financial officer Craig Loudon will be assuming the role of chief operating officer. He will continue to serve as CFO.

Reisman will also rejoin the board of directors as part of the move.

Reisman said Loudon’s experience in his current role would help the company in its turnaround plan as he took on new responsibilities.

“I’m thrilled for both Indigo and for Craig Loudon about his promotion to COO,” she said in a release. “Craig has not only the institutional knowledge and experience to support me and our entire team in his new role, he has also been a trusted partner for our employees, our suppliers and our shareholders for a long time.”

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Reisman initially stepped down as chief executive officer of Indigo last year and just gave up her role as executive chair in August.

Ruis, for his part, resigned as CEO earlier this month, while agreeing to stay on as a consultant to assist with the search for a new chief executive for two months. Longtime executive and former president Andrea Limbardi also left to run Montreal-based retailer Reitmans Canada Ltd.

Ruis’ tenure was short-lived: He joined the retailer in 2021 as president and was appointed to the top job in September of last year after Reisman decided to step back. The following period was tumultuous, with nearly half of Indigo’s board resigning, including one director who said she had lost faith in the company’s overall strategic plan.

The company was also hit with a cyberattack in the spring, which limited its ability to process online transactions, curtailing a key source of revenue for a retailer that had leaned on online sales while pandemic restrictions limited in-store shopping.

The tumult has come against the backdrop of a structural decline in the traditional book-buying industry. In Indigo’s latest quarter, sales fell 12 per cent to $179.2 million, down from $204.6 million in the comparable quarter the prior year. Its adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) widened to $21.4 million from $19.2 million from the same quarter last year, primarily due to lower sales volumes.

The company noted macroeconomic pressures were leading shoppers to tighten their belts and shift their buying toward bargain bin items rather than full-priced new releases.

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