J Crew appoints former Victoria's Secret chief as CEO
J Crew has appointed seasoned retailer and former Victoria's Secret chief Jan Singer as CEO effective 2 February.
Following Singer's appointment J Crew interim CEO Michael J Nicholson will return to his previous role as president and COO. Libby Wadle will continue as President and CEO of sister brand Madewell, reporting separately to the board of directors.
"Jan is a dynamic leader with significant experience growing and modernizing omnichannel brands," said Chad Leat, Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
"Over the past year, we have made great progress restoring profitability at the J Crew brand, while further optimising our operations, thereby establishing a strong foundation for long-term growth. Jan's passion for our brand, focused vision of our potential and deep understanding of the modern consumer will be invaluable in rebuilding the strategic positioning and prestige of our iconic brand and company."
Singer left lingerie giant Victoria's Secret in November 2018 as it began to attract negative publicity in the wake of #Metoo for its over-sexualised imagery of woman. That said, analysts believe she is a steady hand and will bring stability to the premium fashion retailer which has been having struggles of its own.
Prior to Victoria's Secret she was CEO of Spanx and before that spent 10 years with Nike, leading the global footwear and apparel teams. She said of her appointment: "I'm excited and honoured to join this iconic brand and team at such an important time.
"For me, J Crew has led specialty retail by knowing what it takes to be a brand – putting the consumer first and at the centre. My passion for developing product, brand experiences and teams feels very at home at J Crew. It's a beloved brand that has always been in my heart and, like millions of consumers, in my closet."
Singer replaces James Brett who left the business in November 2018, having joined from furniture retailer West Elm during 2017. Brett had replaced the Mickey Drexler, the legendary retail chief who is credited with putting the brand on the map, along with former creative chief Jenna Lyons.
However J Crew, under Drexler and Lyons, began to lose its cool in the mid 2010s and both departed. Brett said he had been unable to agree with the board about future strategy, though decisions such as developing more inclusive sizing and lower prices had been praised by the industry.
The business has been in limbo since his departure so the arrival of Singer is being widely viewed as good news. "Jan's appointment as CEO is an important milestone for our Company. I am proud of the way the teams came together in 2019 with a renewed focus on restoring profitability at the J Crew brand, and our results reflected encouraging momentum led by strong gross margin performance and the accelerated benefits of our multi-year cost optimisation program. With these key building blocks in place, it is an opportune time for J Crew to bring on a leader with a proven track record in positioning brands for success," Nicholson said.
It has been reported this week that Victoria's Secret owner L Brands is in negotiations with CEO Leslie Wexler about agreeing to stand aside and to consider a possible sale of the business.