J.Crew’s longtime leader Mickey Drexler is stepping down as the company’s chief executive as the retailer struggles with a prolonged sales slump and hefty debt load.
According to The Wall Street Journal, James Brett, president of West Elm, will takeover as CEO next month. Drexler, who has been CEO since 2003, will continue to serve as chairman.
Drexler told the company’s board of directors about his plans to step down last year as he has been trying to keep the company from ending up in bankruptcy. Sales at J.Crew stores open at least a year have fallen for the last 10 quarters.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, Drexler said that “at some point” he would look for a new J.Crew CEO who could run the company, but he gave no indication that a new hire was imminent.
“I’m very open to a strong operating executive who knows how to partner well with merchandising and design,” he said. “I’ve come to recognize over time that talent displays itself in many disciplines.”
He also admitted his surprise by how quickly technology had upended fashion retailing and promised to revamp J.Crew by emphasizing lower prices, investing in digital marketing and adopting a more accessible image.
A source said that the company decided to hire Brett shortly after identifying him. Brett joined West Elm, a furniture retailer owned by Williams-Sonoma Inc., in 2010. He previously held positions at Urban Outfitters Inc., Anthropologie and J.C. Penney Co. He will be succeeded at West Elm by Williams-Sonoma veteran Alex Bellos.