Translated from La Presse
GROUPE DYNAMITE HIRES AN AMERICAN TO STEER ITS EXPANSION
An American with extensive experience in retail has been recruited by Montreal retailer, Groupe Dynamite, as president. In office just before the pandemic, Elizabeth Edmiston spent the last seven years in Hong Kong where she worked for Levi’s and Calvin Klein after stints at Victoria’s Secret, Polo Ralph Lauren and Gap.
During a phone call, Dynamite and Garage owner, Andrew Lutfy, raved about Ms. Edmiston, who was discovered after nearly a year of searching around the world. “I am blown away to have her. She is a remarkable woman. […] She likes to create value; she’s a growth-oriented person.”
The very specific expertise that was sought “does not exist here”, according to the businessman, which explains “this big move” from Asia to Quebec.
The news has not yet been released publicly due to the pandemic. La Presse discovered that Elizabeth Edmiston was the new president of Groupe Dynamite when she attended a retail webinar in the United States a few days ago.
The leader moved to Montreal in the middle of January with her family and took office a few weeks before the pandemic.
“We had a 30-day, 60-day, 90-day plan. Look, after two weeks, I didn’t know where the paper was, the document. It all fell apart. We were agile. […] Every day was like a week, every week was like three months. At worst, we had 90 or 95% of our staff on temporary layoff,” says Andrew Lutfy.
Elizabeth Edmiston doesn’t know where to start when asked to describe her first month on the job. She bursts out laughing before saying that it was “like a shock, a wave”.
“I had to manage the growth, but I was closing the stores. We have taken such quick action. It was an amazing crash course… that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone!”Elizabeth Edmiston
Events obviously continue to jostle on both sides of the border. While the stores have just reopened in New York, they are now closing in California. In Quebec, the two DIX30 stores had to be closed because employees had contracted COVID-19 “after going for a beer at the Mile Public House”.
HANDING OVER THE REINS AFTER THREE YEARS
For more than three years, Andrew Lutfy had run his company of 6,000 employees himself.
We all recall that in winter 2017, Anna Martini left Groupe Dynamite to everyone’s surprise in the retail industry. The accountant by training was president of the company for almost 13 years. Andrew Lutfy had convinced her in 2004 to leave Deloitte, after 19 years of service, to devote herself to fashion for young women. The reasons for her departure remain confidential.
The businessman says he took the reins because the company needed “strategic repositioning.”
In the process, Groupe Dynamite set up its first board of directors last year. None of the members are part of the owner’s family, says Lutfy. Rather, they are “growth-driven” people with expertise “in the world of luxury, technology and private finance.” Their meetings led to the search for a new leader.
AMBITIONS IN THE UNITED STATES
Elizabeth Edmiston, who was unfamiliar with the Montreal company, told us that she took the job for personal and professional reasons. She wanted to come back to live in America to be closer to her family, and she was stimulated by the challenge. “I like building brands and prefer vertically integrated companies. […] I also like to grow brands internationally. So this is a dream job for me. […] Both brands have so much potential.”
Growing the business will be Ms. Edmiston’s primary mission. The number of stores could double again in Canada and “tenfold in the United States”, supposes Mr. Lutfy.
Groupe Dynamite has 350 stores, including 120 Garage and 3 Dynamite south of the border. These are “still quite profitable”, which in itself is quite an achievement, according to the businessman. “To be profitable [in the United States] is almost impossible!”
The new president also believes that her home country “is not an easy market” for foreign brands, but she believes she has the expertise to conquer it.
Read the original article in French at La Presse