Shouldice tapped to head Vermont Teddy Bear
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | January 03,2013
It didn’t take William Shouldice IV long to get back into the retail business — this time as head of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
Shouldice was named president and CEO of the Shelburne company on Wednesday by The Mustang Group, a Boston private equity firm.
The announcement came two days after he officially stepped down as president and CEO of The Vermont Country Store. In June, Shouldice announced he would leave the Manchester mail order company at the end of 2012 after seven years on the job.
At Vermont Teddy Bear, he replaces former president John Gilbert, who left the company last summer.
Shouldice, 48, said Wednesday he wanted to remain in Vermont working for a company with a solid product and a solid reputation in the community and Vermont Teddy Bear fit that bill.
He said his focus will be on emphasizing the quality of the company’s Vermont-made products.
“We need to keep that in the forefront,” Shouldice said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s extremely important to the business and to the brand but it’s more important I think that people understand the value Vermont brings to products and product development.”
His priorities also include carrying on the Vermont tradition of exemplary customer service and placing an increased emphasis on community involvement.
Cairn Cross, a member of The Mustang Group board and a partner in Fresh Tracks Capital in Shelburne, said the company approached Shouldice after he announced he was leaving The Vermont Country Store.
“One of the things we were looking for was someone with deep experience in Vermont and particularly experience in a direct-to-consumer company,” Cross said. “And so that narrows it down pretty quickly, as you can imagine.”
He said one impression he was left with Wednesday when Shouldice was introduced to employees was that the person the company hired as president is a real people person.
Cross said one challenge for the company will be to stay on top of the changes in technology and consumer buying habits.
“You need not just to have a Web presence you need to have a mobile web presence,” he said. “You need to be able acquire customers and market to them across a ton of different online and mobile platforms.”
Because its business is seasonal, Vermont Teddy Bear has at times struggled in the past. But Shouldice said the privately held company remains profitable.
He said one component to its future success will be the company’s ability to develop new products and keep operating costs in check.
“We’re going to be putting together a long-range strategic plan for the company and the future is bright,” he said.
In an interview later Wednesday, Shouldice said he had accomplished everything he set out to do at The Vermont Country Store. In addition, he said the next generation of the Orton family was ready to take the reigns of the business.
Before being named by the Orton family to head The Vermont Country Store, Shouldice was president and CEO of the Orton Family Foundation.
Shouldice also has experience in the public sector, having served as secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and as former executive director of the Rutland Economic Development Corp.
Vermont Teddy Bear Company is the largest maker and seller of teddy bears by mail order and Internet.
Started in 1981, the company makes handcrafted teddy bears at its 100,000-square-foot Shelburne factory. The factory, which produces 300,000 bears a year, is also a popular tourist attraction.
The company employs 180 year round employees and has as many as 900 employees during peak holiday periods.
The company also owns Calyx Flowers, a high-end flower company, and PajamaGram, which sells pajamas as creative and playful gifts.