Nearly two weeks after admitting that he underestimated the role technology would play in retail in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Millard “Mickey” Drexler is leaving his longtime role as CEO of J.Crew.
Drexler’s departure from the role signals more massive change for the apparel retailer, which also saw its President, Executive Creative Director and second-in-command Jenna Lyons step down from her role in April 2017. Lyons, who had been considered the creative mastermind behind the brand’s rise in the early 2000s, will remain with J.Crew as a creative advisor until her contract expires in December 2017. Drexler will remain in his role as Chairman of the Board of Directors at J.Crew.
James Brett, a veteran with more than 25 years of retail experience, will succeed Drexler as CEO in July, and also will join the J.Crew board.
The departures of Drexler and Lyons come at a time when J.Crew is desperate for answers to declining sales and foot traffic. Comparable sales at J.Crew fell 6.7% in 2016, on top of an 8.2% drop the year before. On top of these losses,the company has more than $2 billion in debt and less than $150 million in cash.
In the WSJ interview, Drexler noted that the retailer’s biggest mistake in recent years was increasing prices at a time when customers were becoming more price-conscious. J.Crew is trying to atone for its missteps by lowering prices and pivoting its marketing strategy, slashing prices on approximately 300 items.
“This is an exciting time for J.Crew as we continue to make significant changes to position our company for long-term success,” said Drexler in a statement. “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.”
Brett most recently served as President of specialty home furnishings company West Elm since 2010. Prior to West Elm, he was the Chief Merchandising Officer for the Urban Outfitters Division of Urban Outfitters, Inc. He has also served in various merchandising roles at retailers including Anthropologie, JCPenney and May Department Stores Company.