Twenty months after President Neal J. Fox and a group of investors bought the Raleighs clothing chain, Fox's program to revamp the image of the staid, 74-year-old Washington retailer is well in place.
Sales promotion campaigns to attract a clientele that includes more women and younger professionals have received much of Fox's attention. And store executives say his efforts are paying off. But now Fox has begun to focus on another, more private side of his business: the balance sheet.
Earlier this fall, Fox tapped Russell Solt, a 37-year-old Marine Corps veteran and an accountant with 10 years of experience with the May Department Store chain on the West Coast, to whip the Raleighs balance sheet into fiscal shape.
As the new senior vice president for finance and chief financial officer -- one of Fox's two deputies -- Solt replaced the retiring Brainard L. Janicki. Janicki had been with the company for the duration of the Lansburgh family's 32-year reign that ended in 1983.
"I'm bringing in a new insight coming from May; a different point of view," said Solt. "The reason I'm here is to find ways to do things more efficiently and at less cost."
Three months into the job, Solt already has begun to trim the chain's excess fat. He has dumped some of its outside services -- including attorneys, accountants and a courier service, which he thought were too expensive -- and hired professionals to handle some of those tasks from inside.
In addition, he is developing an information system that will keep better track of the sales and merchandise of the chain's 12 stores in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia.
"The key to increasing profit is to control operating expenses," said Solt, who keeps a watchful eye on the bottom line.
In an unrelated development, Fox recently announced he has hired Joyce C. Harrington, a merchandising vice president with I. Magnin & Co. in San Francisco, to be the company's vice president and general manager of the women's wear division, effective Jan. 6.
Harrington will report directly to Fox and will have responsibility for eight buyers. "Joyce Harrington adds enormous strength to our ready-to-wear merchandising efforts," Fox said.