J.Crew announced last week that CEO Mickey Drexler is stepping down in July. This comes just two months after Jenna Lyons stepped down as creative director and president of the preppy brand.
Drexler told WWD that he made the final decision to leave the company. “I have been running companies for 37 years and the announcement today is a major change in my life,” he told WWD. Drexler has been CEO of J.Crew for 14 years where he was hired to revitalize falling sales. He invested $100 million into J.Crew and holds 10% of the company. He’ll stay on as a chairman. Before J.Crew, he worked for Gap and Apple.
J.Crew has been in crisis-mode for the past few years. While sales have declined, a mountain of debt is due to investors starting in 2019. Once the darling of the American prep, the retailer has struggled to compete with fast fashion and e-commerce retailers. Designs for Jenna Lyons’ “J.Crew Collection” were too expensive for their core consumer, something Drexler addressed to The Wall Street Journal just last month. “We became a little too elitist in our attitude,” he said.
“We gave a perception of being a higher-priced company than we were – in our catalog, online and in our general presentation. Very big mistake.”
Lyons had been with the company since 1990 and been president since 2010. Her April departure signaled a huge shakeup for the brand as her designs and management had become synonymous with the J.Crew name. Somsack Sikhounmuong, who has been with the company since 2001, will take over as chief design officer. But the role won’t be as high profile as Lyons’. Designs will return to J.Crew’s signature basics. Drexler explained in May,
“We’re getting back to being who we are – much more comfortable, approachable, democratic and friendly.”
Just weeks after saying this, Drexler made the announcement that he, too, was leaving. West Elm president James Brett will be taking over his position in mid-July. Will these changes be enough to revitalize J.Crew and increase sales? Only time will tell.