"We got a lot of negative letters from customers," says Bonnie Brooks, 57, of her 2008 start as president of the Bay. Canada's oldest department store -- its history goes back to the days of King Charles II -- was flailing, with an over-stretched staff that had packed stores with a confusing, too-broad array of merchandise. "It was like your worst nightmare," she says. "Customers couldn't find anything." Brooks -- who revitalized Hong Kong's Lane Crawford department store and served as editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Flare -- has refreshed the Bay by dropping 800 brands and introducing 220, including Brian Atwood, Pierre Hardy, and Balmain. The changes are paying off: The Bay recently celebrated its most profitable year ever.
"We have royalty in our history--eat your heart out, Ralph Lauren."