New CEO to Get Retailer Back on Its Feet
Greg Milne is aiming to get Walking Co. back on track.
"The organization had lost its focus," said Milne, new chief executive the Chatsworth-based shoe retailer who previously was president and chief operating officer of specialty retailer Sunglass Hut. "The offering had become more like a department store the product was more generic, there were less national brands."
His first step was to clear out inventory and redo in-store displays. "We marked down four and a half million worth of crap," said Milne, a native Australian.
His second course of action was instituting employee-training programs to ensure that store workers engage customers and, of course, measure their feet.
Walking Co. has 92 stores nationwide and plans to open 24 more by next year. The chain sells brands like Birkenstock, Ecco and Merrell shoes, in addition to its own Walking Co. collection. With those in place, Milne said he plans to focus on identifying niches that the national brands have neglected and fill them with the company's own product.
Milne, 47, received his undergraduate degree in economics and marketing from Macquarie University in Sydney. He managed several Australian department stores before taking a job in the travel industry.
In 1987, he went back to retail as general manager of Dymocks, an Australian bookseller, and followed that with a stint at a lingerie retailer before leaving to run the Australian arm of Sunglass Hut in 1996.
He came to the United States in 2000 to become the company's president and chief operating officer. Last year Sunglass Hut was purchased by Luxottica Group, the Italian firm that owns LensCrafters, for $650 million.
He lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife, who heads back to Australia every six weeks to watch over the couple's two young adult children. "The house has become famous for parties," Milne said.
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