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Finish Line exec resigns after website redesign debacle

February 5, 2013

Less than three months after a disastrous launch of a newly designed website that cost the retail company $3 million in sales, The Finish Line Inc. has parted ways with its chief digital officer and executive vice president, Christopher Ladd.

Ladd, according to a company filing, had been with the Indianapolis-based company since 2011 and resigned effective Feb. 1.

A Finish Line spokeswoman Tuesday declined to elaborate on Ladd’s departure, adding only that the company is now conducting a search for his replacement.

Executives for the sports retailer were contrite Jan. 4 when they fielded questions from analysts about the company’s unsuccessful launch of a new website just four days before Black Friday. As IBJ reported in December, customer complaints and glitches forced the company to do an about-face and revert to the legacy website Dec. 6.

“Hindsight says launching the website in November was a huge mistake,” CEO Glenn Lyon said on the Jan. 4 conference call. “We had so much confidence built into the fact that this platform was going to improve our business, never thinking that it could be decreasing our business.”

He added: “Our leadership team is challenged by this, and I constantly use the expression around here that we need to be confident but we can’t be cocky. And the fact is, we might have gotten a little out on our skis here.”

Though Finish Line officials said the website’s traffic wasn’t diminished, its e-commerce sales declined due to poor site design and functionality issues. Finish Line estimated it lost $3 million in sales during the less-than-three-week period the new site operated.

Immediately after The Finish Line disclosed on Dec. 14 that it was ditching its new website design, analysts reacted quickly and negatively.

The disclosure—which came three weeks before the company was scheduled to report third-quarter results—led Wall Street analysts to pounce. One prominent analyst downgraded the stock to a "hold" from "buy," and three others lowered price targets.

Ladd had previously worked for Lululemon Athletica Inc., a firm known for its yoga and fitness apparel, and footwear maker Crocs Inc.

Finish Line shares traded Tuesday morning at $18.42, up from Monday’s $18.29 closing price.

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