Payless’ LuAnn Via to Helm Christopher & Banks

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Christopher & Banks store at the Mall of America

Plymouth, MN—Retail veteran LuAnn Via, who left her position as chief executive at Payless ShoeSource earlier this month, has been named president and chief executive at Christopher & Banks.

Via is expected to assume her position on Nov. 26, making her the seventh chief executive in as many years at the women’s specialty retailer which has been struggling with getting its correct retails and merchandise assortments in sync.

Via succeeds Joel Waller, president and interim CEO, who will remain as a consultant until June 2013.

Peter Michielutti, chief  financial officer, reportedly said Monday that the Christopher  & Banks team is excited about Via. “I think she is going to do great,” he said.

Paul Snyder, the retailer’s chairman, said in a statement that Via has the leadership qualities needed “as we continue to execute on the turnaround strategy started by Joel Waller. Ms. Via’s extensive merchandise and product development experience in multiple retail channels in addition to her strong executive and personal qualities were key factors in the board’s decision to hire her.”

Added Via: “I look forward to leveraging the company’s brand strengths to deliver improved sales and earnings results for the company’s shareholders.”

Christopher & Banks, which reported sales of $461 million in 2011, operates 640 stores in 44 states, including 388 Christopher & Banks stores and 172 CJBanks stores. About 55 stores are dual format stores for both retail brands and there are 25 outlet stores in addition to online business.

Via began as chief executive at Payless in 2008 and oversaw a 4,000-store operation that generates more than $2.4 billion in sales each year.

Before joining Payless, Via held various executive and merchandising roles at Charming Shoppes, Sears Holdings, Saks Inc., and Federated Department Stores.

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