Appointing a new boss was the easy part for Billabong
Billabong International's elevation of the talented Launa Inman from consultant to chief executive shows that her audition for the top job is over — but the hard work is just beginning.
As the former boss of discount department store group Target she brings a whole range of retailing skills — sourcing, supply chains, brand marketing — to the job.
But Billabong's customer base is vastly different. She is more used to the fluoro-lit, polished lino and chrome-racked worlds of Target.
While Billabong's customers have grown way beyond those who do surf to include those who either want to give the impression they do, or wish they did, the demographic is more male than Target's females.
The market is also hesitant, with Billabong's shares off 4 cents to $2.36 in morning trade.
As for Inman's predecessor, Derek O'Neill, I said last December when the company's stock halved in the wake of a massive profit downgrade that his job, and that of chairman Ted Kunkel, hung by a thread.
It looks like Kunkel snapped O'Neill's thread in mid-February as Billabong neared the end of the strategic review that resulted in pulling from its corporate hat the $464 million sale of a surf brand almost unknown here, Nixon Inc. That money, about the same as Billabong's entire sharemarket value, bought it time to get the remaining business right. That is still a work in progress.
Kunkel forcefully denied rumours at the time that he was about to despatch O'Neill — no doubt able to say that because while the decision had been made, the Billabong board did not implement it until they had decided on Inman.
Inman, who spent seven years running Target, was allowed a graceful exit last year when it became apparent to the retailer's owner, Wesfarmers, that fresh blood was needed.
Although her going was announced in September, she did not leave until the end of 2011. It was March when she picked up the consulting gig at Billabong.
O'Neill, on the other hand, "departs the company today", Kunkel said in this morning's press release, and gave him barely a paragraph of tribute at the end of the announcement.
Much more space was given to Kunkel's careful political strategy to retain the head of Billabong's North American business, Paul Naude, by promoting him to "President of the Americas".
While the title will not annoy Barack Obama, it does suggest that Naude ran a close second for the top job, and that by keeping his seat on the board as an executive director will be a constant reminder to Inman to be on her game.