Jun 5, 2017
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Drexler walks away from J. Crew CEO role, will stay as chairman, names West Elm's Brett to top job

Jun 5, 2017

Mickey Drexler is stepping down from the helm of J. Crew after 14 years. The news comes as the former must-have label continues its fight back from a bruising succession of sales and profit falls.

J. Crew

And who’s taking over? The company said it has named James Brett to the CEO’s post. The experienced executive was most recently President of specialty home furnishing company West Elm. He will take up his new role next month and will also join the board.

But a new CEO does not mean  an executive clear-out. Drexler, who has a 10% stake in the firm, will hold on to his chairman’s role, while Michael J Nicholson will stay on as President, COO and CFO of the group, and Libby Wadle will continue to be President of the firm’s more successful, newer brand Madewell.

"This is an exciting time for J. Crew as we continue to make significant changes to position our company for long-term success," Drexler said without referring to any of the problems at the business. "As Chairman and an owner of the company, it is my responsibility to focus on the future… and find the right leadership to execute on our strategic plans.”

Rumours have been circulating for some time that Drexler would step back from day to day running of the group as it has struggled to reshape itself to respond to changing consumer priorities and a harsher retail environment. This year alone the company has announced major price cuts, its longstanding creative chief Jenna Lyons has left and in March it announced another full year and Q4 of lower sales at the J. Crew unit, even though Madewell has been thriving.

So what does Brett bring to the table in what is one of the most challenging times for US and global fashion retail as well as for the company itself? Drexler said he “has a proven track record of pushing for innovation and growing omnichannel brands.”

As the head of West Elm, Brett was part of the Williams-Sonoma family. He took up that role in 2010 and West Elm became a $1bn international brand during his time there.

Before that he was Chief Merchandising Officer of Urban Outfitters’s signature division and he has also served in various merchandising roles at other retailers including UO’s Anthropologie unit, plus J.C. Penney and May Department Stores Company.

Brett himself said that he believes J. Crew “has tremendous opportunity to play a more meaningful role in our lives, and I look forward to leading it through its next phase of growth.”

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