Billabong Women’s Global GM Susan Branch is stepping down from her position at the end of May to spend more time with her family, including her young grandchildren.
Susan has led Billabong Women’s for 3 1/2 years and has helped the brand become the women’s leader in the core market by a wide margin, according to ActionWatch. The brand has also gained a lot of market share in many categories including swim.
The team that Susan built at Billabong Women’s will now take on more responsibility. Katie Singer is being promoted to Global VP, Merchandising & Design for Women’s reporting to Billabong Global President Shannan North.
In addition to her current team, Katie will also oversee the Design & Concept teams led by Leila Heydari and Allison Roberts respectively.
Cathey Curtis, Global Women’s VP Marketing, will report directly to Shannan as well.
For Susan, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the organization.
“I’ve never worked with a team like this, with such a genuine, creative, hardworking, caring bunch of people,” Susan told SES in an interview. “We’ve accomplished a lot in a really short period of time."
But she didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spend more time with her family.
“I started in this industry when I was 20 years old, so I’ve been at this a long time, and I’ve never really taken a break,” she said. “I have young grandchildren and more to come.
“It was a tough decision for me to leave a business that I am still very passionate about. But you just can’t compare that with the opportunity to spend more time with your family,” she said.
Susan, Shannan and CEO Neil Fiske have talked about the possibility of her being involved with the brand in a different capacity in the future, but first Susan wants to take the summer off before contemplating that idea.
Shannan praised the work Susan has done at Billabong, and during her career.
“Susan has had an illustrious 25 year career in the global apparel and footwear business,” Shannan said. “She joined Billabong Women’s over three years ago with a mandate to grow the business, develop a great team, build brand equity and momentum. She has delivered all of this and more.”
I asked Susan what she is most proud of during her tenure at Billabong.
“At the top of the list would be just the building of this team, and being able to develop and mentor them over the last three-and-a-half years has been something I’m really proud of,” she said.
“They’ve really evolved into a powerhouse team. We all really had a vision. We decided we were in it to win it, and we put together a plan. And being able to successfully execute on it with the team has been super rewarding.
“The other thing is executing on the strategy to be best-in-class in swim,” Susan said. “That was a Neil directive. I think we’ve delivered up some pretty compelling results and I think really led the industry in what swim can look like when you’re best-in-class and how you can do it year-round really successfully.”
The strong results during her tenure at Billabong Women’s were highlighted by the brand’s three SIMA Award wins last month for Women’s Apparel Brand of the Year, Women’s Swim Brand of the Year, and Women’s Marketing Campaign of the Year.
Susan credited the team for the awards and knows they are prepared to lead the business.
“They are ready,” she said. “I feel really good about that. They know what they need to do,” she said. “They’re going to continue to deliver really positive results for the brand.”