Slow Growth. Recession. Four CEO’s in Five years. Most would be intimidated to step up to the CEO plate, but Michelle Peluso is ready to play ball. Peluso, who is currently the global consumer chief marketing and Internet officer at Citigroup (NYSE: C) and a former Travelocity CEO, will take over as Gilt Groupe’s chief executive officer in February.
Peluso’s plan? Preparing for a possible initial public offering next year and figuring out how to stay profitable at a time when the flash-sales sensation is old news. The company recently announced that the three year board of director member, Peluso, will take over from Kevin Ryan in February 2013.
Twenty-five year retail veteran and chief executive officer of e-commerce platform the Yumani, Michael O’ Hara, explained that he thinks the Peluso appointment may indicate a trend in the maturing world of online retail.
“With the Amazon-izing of the world, these e-commerce platforms are becoming big companies,” O’Hara told Upstart Business Journal. “It’s going to take more than a young, dot-com startup founder. You need somebody with financial experience.“
Between Peluso’s time at Citibank and her experience on the board, Peluso has both.
“It makes good business sense,” O’Hara says.
There is a mutual agreement across the Gilt board as well. They have publicly verbalized that Peluso as not just someone who helps direct the company but someone who has a passion for the brand.
Gilt vice chairman and former CEO Susan Lyne told Fortune that Peluso has been “obsessed with Gilt as a consumer since she came on the board.”
“She is always the board member who comes through with the question you should have considered,” Lyne told the publication. “She’s also got exactly the right background; she has big strengths in both product and marketing and those are arguably the two greatest skills for the next phase of Gilt. She’s operated huge companies, and she has also been a startup person so she still understands the value of culture.”
Current Gilt Groupe CEO and founder Kevin Ryan told Business Insider that the decision to step down was his own, and that he hand-picked Peluso as his successor.
“I’ve known Michelle for three years. She’s been a board member of Gilt, and I’ve spent the last year and a half trying to recruit her but she wasn’t ready to leave Citi yet,” Ryan told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Over the last four months, I’ve interviewed probably seven people, including her. She’s the only person we offered the job to. She was my first choice. I’m really, really excited about it.”
Peluso has some big shoes to fill next February. She will face huge challenges next February that include a company which was valued at $1 billion last May after raising $138 million, but has since staggered in growth, laying off nearly 10 percent of its Gilt city employees last January.
Slow growth and dealing with the rescission will be the most difficult part of Peluso’s takeover. When the recession hit, Gilt was there at the right place at the right time. Fashion companies went into frenzy when consumers started thinking twice about spending money on luxuries.
Gilt Groupe hit the nail on the head when they introduced their invite only site with intense discounts on trendy labels and name brand merchandise. Fashionistas ate up the idea of an exclusive “club” that offered discounts on hot ticket items.
The flash-sales scene has since pumped the breaks, with Ryan guesstimating to BI that while growth for companies across the category, including Gilt, Zulily, Rue La La and HauteLook “aren’t 150 percent anymore, the whole group is still growing at probably 20 to 40 percent.”
The 5-year-old and 1,000 employee company will face new a new vision. Peluso’s experience will hopefully give her an edge. She started her own travel site called Site59 in 2000, and it was acquired by Travelocity in March 2002. The following year, Peluso had climbed the ranks to CEO. The startup’s focus: deals.