Great Expectations

Pity the home furnishings industry exec on a long summer vacation--he or she will return to work with a whole new landscape of retail leaders.

For those keeping score at home (along with the imaginary, anachronistic exec who could actually take vacation all summer), here's a brief rundown on the recent CEO shuffle:

Target named Brian Cornell, formerly the head of PepsiCo Americas Foods, as CEO. The company said his first priorities will be to accelerate the company's "omnichannel evolution." I hope, for his sake, that he enjoys reading reports about credit card security and making trips to Canada.

Edward Lampert appointed Alasdair James to run the Kmart operation. Most recently, James was the commercial director for U.K.-based retailer Tesco.

Walmart named Greg Foran CEO of Walmart U.S. Foran, who was named CEO of Walmart Asia earlier this year, is a 35-year retail veteran. Before coming to Walmart, he was at the Australian retailer Woolworths.

Kathryn Bufano, formerly the president of merchandising at Belk, is the new CEO of Bon-Ton Stores. Sascha Bopp resigned as CEO of Crate and Barrel last month and the company is searching for his replacement. Meanwhile, Ron Allen at Aaron's has retired and the rental chain is on the CEO hunt.

And, as the summer winds down, the retail executive doors continue to revolve. Sooner rather than later the dust will settle from the Dollar General, Family Dollar and the Dollar Tree tussle and we'll see who's left standing--and who's left looking for a job.

While the new retail heads vary from specialty stores to dollar stores, they all share one thing: incredible pressure to succeed in a constantly evolving, technology driven shopping world. What works today might not work tomorrow.

With the fear of making a huge mistake, most people--retailers included--will react cautiously when under extreme pressure and scrutiny.

Reflecting this caution, vendors whisper that most buyers from major retailers have become extremely conservative with their buying choices. This trend toward conservatism has been glaringly obvious at recent trade shows. For example, the furniture showrooms at July's Las Vegas Market were a sea of tan and gray.

Perhaps ironically, while buyers are responding conservatively to styles and designs, the new retail leaders will be expected to think out of the box to stop the continuing loss of consumers to Internet retailers, especially Amazon.

These days, Jeff Bezos is the yardstick by which current retailer CEOs are measured--think phones and drones. Amazon recently announced that it would test its futuristic, package-delivering drones in India. And successful or not, the Amazon phone is a game changing, bar-raising symbol for expectations of retail executives.

Who could blame one of the new retailers for cozying up to Bezos and saying, "Hey Jeff, at least let me stand next to your Fire."