Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

New Pier 1 Imports CEO starts job with stock incentives in place

Pier 1 Imports continues to operate more than 1,000 stores in North America, including this location in Southlake.
Pier 1 Imports continues to operate more than 1,000 stores in North America, including this location in Southlake. Star-Telegram

Pier 1 Imports’ new boss, Alasdair James, is in town and has received the customary pile of stock incentives upon starting his new job.

James, 46, formerly the president of Kmart, started as president and chief executive officer of the Fort Worth-based home furnishings retailer on May 1.

According to securities filings, James received a $300,000 signing bonus and will be paid a base salary of $1 million a year. Upon his start at Pier 1, he received stock options worth $1 million, with a ten-year term, and restricted stock grants worth $2.5 million, with some vesting over time and some vesting based on performance.

James succeeds Alex Smith, who retired at the end of the year. According to the company’s proxy statement filed last week, Smith received compensation worth $6.8 million in his final year at the helm and left holding 1.9 million shares of Pier 1 stock, or 2.25 percent of outstanding shares. That was worth about $11.8 million as of Friday’s close.

Smith joined Pier 1 in 2007 and led a turnaround of the retailer following the Great Recession. At the time of his departure, the company said he would be due a lump-sum pension payout of about $24 million during this fiscal year.

Smith’s compensation puts him among the top 40 highest-paid executives of public companies in North Texas, according to a database compiled by the Star-Telegram.

Like other retailers, Pier 1 has been struggling to adjust to the movement of shoppers online and away from brick-and-mortar stores. Pier 1 continues to operate more than 1,000 stores in North America, but said in March that it plans to close about 100 stores over the next two years. Its stock dropped 8 percent on Friday as the Gordon Haskett investment firm initiated coverage with a recommendation to reduce holdings, and worries swirled about Amazon getting into the furniture business.

Pier 1 has scheduled its annual shareholders meeting for 10 a.m. June 22 at its corporate headquarters just west of downtown.

Southwest tops J.D. Power rankings

For the first time, Southwest Airlines topped the J.D. Power customer service rankings for low-cost airlines.

The Dallas-based airline received a score of 807, barely beating out last year’s winner JetBlue, which scored 803 this year. The survey, based on responses from more than 11,000 passengers, ranks airlines based on in-flight services, aircraft, flight crew, check-in, reservations, costs and fees and baggage handling.

Alaska Airlines ranked No. 1 for traditional carriers, with Fort Worth-based American Airlines coming in third with a score of 736. According to J.D. Power, customer satisfaction with U.S. airlines has steadily improved due to lower fares, better on-time performance and fewer lost bags.

“It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat, but our data shows that, as a whole, the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew,” said J.D. Power’s travel practice lead Michael Taylor.

The overall score for the industry increased to 756, up 30 points compared with last year. As more passengers post comments about their airline experience on social media, J.D. Power found that when an airline responded to the comment, customer satisfaction increased.

Getting workers to the factory floor

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey worries about the worker on the factory floor.

The Fort Worth Democrat has toured and worked in local manufacturing facilities as part of his “Marc Means Business” workdays.

So Veasey was sincere when he talked about attacking the “skills gap” as J.P. Morgan Chase donated $500,000 to the Community Learning Center last week. The funds will support training in high-demand occupations, especially aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

Veasey said nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade, but the “skills gap” is expected to leave 2 million of those jobs unfilled. He said there are 350,000 job vacancies in advanced manufacturing.

As Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter Textron bring more jobs to the area, Veasey said “we must ensure that our local workforce is ready to take advantage of these new opportunities.”

“This is a situation that needs to be addressed,” Veasey said. “It is a very real problem.”

Veasey has previously sponsored legislation in Congress to help with the retraining of the workforce, including his “Bridge to Manufacturing Jobs Act,” which would provide for a competitive grant program for apprenticeship and internship programs for a consortium of manufacturing companies in their local regions.

He has also authored the “Partnerships for the Future Act” that would direct the Department of Labor to create a competitive grant pilot program to provide additional tools for educating and training the workforce.

“It is clear that the need to invest in job training and re-training programs is more urgent than ever,” Veasey said. “The days where you could find a good paying job ‘working the line’ with limited technical knowledge are long gone.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko