Almost a year since he took on the top job, Indigo Books & Music Inc.’s chief executive is moving on.
The Toronto-based books and home goods retailer announced Thursday that Peter Ruis has resigned, adding the board “thanks him for his contributions to the company and wishes him well as he moves on to new challenges in his career.”
His departure — for which the company offered no explanation —
is the latest surprise shakeup at Indigo, which has faced a slew of leadership changes over the last year.
Andrea Limbardi, Indigo’s president and a 21-year employee of the company, announced in a LinkedIn post on Wednesday that she had left to take the helm of apparel business Reitmans Canada Ltd.
But the biggest departure Indigo has seen in recent months came from Heather Reisman, the company’s famed founder known for building Indigo into a Canadian retail stalwart with 171 stores and for adding lucrative “Heather’s Picks” stickers on top reads. She served as chief executive until last year, when Ruis took over, and retired from the board on Aug. 22.
Before her retirement, four of Indigo’s 10 directors left the board, with Chika Stacy Oriuwa attributing her resignation to a “loss of confidence in board leadership” and “mistreatment.”
Pressure was on Ruis, who was Indigo’s president before taking the top job, to bring stability to the company’s leadership and put his own stamp on Indigo. As recently as last month, he claimed his ideas have the backing of his team.
“I think we definitely have everyone’s support,” Ruis told The Canadian Press in an Aug. 25 interview.
His vision for the company centred on continuing Indigo’s longtime goal of blending books and home goods across stores.
He intended to put the strategy to the test once more at an urban concept store the company plans to launch the first of at The Well building in Toronto later this month.
It was due to sell pastries, coffee, beer and wine, have a listening booth, arcade area and nooks dedicated to home fragrances, plants and popular Japanese graphic novels known as Manga.
But Ruis conceded drawing customers in would take more work because inflation has reduced buying power and the company faced a February cyberattack that downed its website and hampered sales.
“Naturally, when you close something down for a little bit of time, you lose a few customers on the way and you have to beckon them back,” he said.
“The good news is each week, more of them come back, but it’s definitely, I would say, still a challenge for us to get everyone back.”
Ruis seemed up to the task and Reisman even praised his “his wealth of knowledge and expertise” across U.K. retailers as making him ideal for the job. His resume is chock full of time spent at Marks & Spencer, Ted Baker and Levi Strauss & Co.
At womenswear chain Anthropologie URBN Group, he charted an international expansion and at U.K. department store John Lewis, he transformed the chain from its traditionalist roots into a fashion destination with soaring apparel sales, designer collaborations and buzzy Christmas ads.
When he joined the company as president in February 2021, Ruis was based in England, but Indigo said he and his family would make the move to Toronto.
Now that he’s leaving, Ruis has agreed to serve as a consultant to Indigo for the next two months “to support a smooth transition in leadership.”
“With Peter’s departure, the board is focused on acting swiftly to determine the right leader to move the company forward,” the board said in its statement.
In the interim, Indigo’s chief financial officer Craig Loudon and Damien Liddle, the company’s general counsel, will work closely with the board to provide day-to-day direction.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2023.