The mandate of future Reitmans CEO Andrea Limbardi is clear. Her mission is to modernize the Montreal retailer.

The current CEO of Ontario bookseller Indigo won’t start working at Reitmans until September, but it seems that the Montrealer’s expertise in applying digital strategies will soon be put to use.

“There is modernization and innovation to inject into the company and we are counting on it to do so,” said Reitmans Chairman of the Board, Daniel Rabinowicz, in an interview.

If the announcement of the appointment of Andrea Limbardi to succeed Stephen Reitman at the head of the operator of Penningtons, RW

Crossed Thursday at the meeting of shareholders of Reitmans, the investor and shareholder Justin Pintwala believes that this demonstrates an openness to change. “As long as she has the autonomy to make changes,” he says.

Shareholder and portfolio manager Jesse Gamble, of the firm Donville Kent, also welcomes the hiring of the new CEO, but says he is eager to hear from her in order to know her strategy. She was not present at the shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.

Andrea Limbardi will have “a lot of leeway”, says Daniel Rabinowicz. “In the short term, there is no great urgency for Andrea to come in and fix what’s broken. That said, in the longer term, we want to return to good growth and unearth new opportunities. But of course we have to question some of our ways of doing things. »

He speaks of a “new context” or even a new era in retail with digital and the use of artificial intelligence.

For Stephen Reitman, the most important thing was to find someone who understood how to go about reaching consumers.

Andrea Limbardi will be the first non-Reitman family member to lead the company, which will celebrate its centenary in three years.

His hiring is the result of a reflection that stretched over 15 months. “We wanted someone with previous experience working with the founder or founder of a controlling company. And this is the case with Andrea Limbardi, who has been running Indigo for twenty years. She works closely with Heather Reisman, the founder and controlling shareholder of Indigo,” explains Daniel Rabinowicz.

“It’s very important,” he says. Andrea hopes to develop an interesting working relationship with Stephen Reitman so that he can act as a bit of a mentor for her while she learns the inner workings and culture of the company. »

Stephen Reitman, who will become executive chairman of the board in September, says now is the time to think about the future and make room for someone who can help modernize the company.

Reitmans management says it is convinced that the stock is undervalued on the stock market. The book value of the stock is approximately $5, notes chief financial officer Richard Wait. Over the past year, Reitmans stock has fallen from 75 cents to its current level of $3 on the Toronto Venture Exchange.

The executives also say they are examining the possibility of migrating to the Toronto Stock Exchange, which could potentially attract the interest of institutional investors and analysts.

Net loss for the quarter widened to 3.8 million from 1.7 million a year ago.

It should be noted, however, that the first quarter is historically the least profitable at Reitmans since it follows the important holiday season and is between two seasons.

Management attributes the increased loss to higher salaries for store and head office staff, as well as higher rents, among other factors.

Reitmans has returned to investors’ radar screen in recent months after using the Creditors Arrangement Act to clean up its balance sheet and streamline operations during the pandemic. Several stores were closed and leases were renegotiated.

Portfolio manager Jesse Gamble points out that Reitmans has ample cash, no debt and estimates that the company owns real estate worth approximately $240 million, while Reitmans’ market capitalization is less than $110 million. .

Reitmans is one of the few retailers with a growing customer base, he says. He estimates that the target market for plus-size, mature women is growing at 3.3% per year.