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It is truly the end of an era at J.Crew: Mickey Drexler, the brand’s longtime CEO, is stepping down. James Brett, the president of home goods company West Elm, will succeed him, and Drexler, who owns 10 percent of the company, will remain on J.Crew’s board.
"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 in a statement emailed to Racked. “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. Jim has a proven track record of pushing for innovation and growing omni-channel brands. I look forward to moving into my new role and assist Jim and the team in every way possible to help ensure a smooth and successful transition."
Though Drexler, who’s been with J.Crew since 2003, has been planning his exit for a year, the news comes just weeks after Jenna Lyons, the company’s creative director and president, left the company.
“I am relaxed-ish,” Drexler told WWD, which broke the news. “It’s a large day for me. I have been running companies for 37 years and the announcement today is a major change in my life... I am excited about where the team is and the strategic plans we have. There’s excitement about J. Crew and Madewell — brands that people love and admire.”
Drexler has been nothing if not a retail wunderkind. Dubbed a “merchant prince,” Drexler had a hand in helping Gap burst onto the fashion scene in the ’90s before he joined J.Crew 14 years ago. But J.Crew has seen slumping sales over the last few years, thanks in part to its failure to compete with fast fashion and the country’s general lack of interest in classic mall brands. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month, Drexler said J.Crew would be implementing changes like faster turnover. While that might mean a better business strategy going forward, longtime J.Crew fans will definitely miss Drexler, who was intimately involved with his company, employing old-school tactics like telling customers to email him directly and communicating with employees over a loudspeaker in the brand’s corporate offices.
Placing his faith in Brett, Drexler says he “is a merchant. A brand guy. He likes design, and he is a customer person. Those are the four critical elements that go into making a strong leader.” While Drexler told WWD that the state of retail right now is troubling — “I think this is the most challenging period apparel retailing has seen maybe ever. People aren’t shopping the way they used to shop. There’s a revolution going on out there”— he has faith in in-store shopping, adding that “brick and mortar is here to stay.”