Mickey Drexler, J. Crew's Legendary CEO, to Step Down

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J. Crew's same-store sales fell 8% a year ago, following a 10% plunge in 2015.

J.Crew's sales fell 6% to $2.3 billion past year, according to its most recent annual report. The 72-year-old Drexler, who ran the business for more than 14 years, will remain chairman.

J.Crew Group Inc. said that it has appointed James Brett as Chief Executive Officer. On top of these losses, the company has more than $2 billion in debt and less than $150 million in cash.

Drexler led Gap as the company rose to become the country's biggest specialty clothing retailer in the 1990s, and then led J.Crew through a similarly rapid rise.

Brett, whose appointment is effective from July, will also join J. Crew's board of directors. Drexler, speaking to the Wall Street Journal just last month (paywall), said the company had become too "elitist", giving shoppers the sense that it was a higher-priced brand than it really was. "As chairman and an owner of the company, it is my responsibility to focus on the future of J.Crew and find the right leadership to execute on our strategic plans".

Drexler continued, "Jim has a proven track record of pushing for innovation and growing omni-channel brands".

Brett most recently served as President of West Elm, a member of the Williams-Sonoma, Inc. portfolio, since 2010, where he oversaw all aspects of the brand. West Elm's former CEO Jim Brett has been named as his replacement.

Brett was previously chief merchandising officer for Urban Outfitters, and he held various roles at Anthropologie, J.C. Penney and May Department Stores. That puts brands like J. Crew in a hard position to compete as styles come and go quicker than ever.

Fitch Ratings said in a recent research note that J. Crew's persistent same-store sales declines can be attributed to "fashion misses combined with elevated price points", and the firm expects sales to continue to fall 3% to 5% annually over the next two years.

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