What Drove Mickey Drexler Out? Retail Experts Weigh In

Retail TouchPoints – Millard “Mickey” Drexler earned the nickname of “Merchant Prince” for his ability to market apparel that became a lifestyle look for millions of consumers. First at Gap in the 1990s and at J.Crew since 2003, Drexler was renowned for both anticipating and shaping customer tastes.

But now the prince has been deposed (or has abdicated) following quarter after quarter of poor performance. Comparable sales at J.Crew fell 6.7% in 2016, following an 8.2% decrease the year before. The company, in which Drexler maintains a 10% ownership stake, has more than $2 billion in debt and less than $150 million in cash.

What went wrong? Drexler himself admitted in a recent Wall Street Journal interview that he underestimated the transformative impact of technology — particularly the Internet’s ability to satisfy consumers’ desire for more convenience, greater product selection and lower prices. Retail TouchPoints asked several industry experts for their take on Drexler’s departure, and what advice they would give to his successor James Brett.

Ken Morris, Principal, Boston Retail Partners: There are a lot of factors that are going against J.Crew and they have an uphill battle. They now realize that they need to modernize their technology to provide the shopping experience consumers expect; however, their financial situation makes it difficult to fund the investments needed. J.Crew’s success will hinge on several key areas — and focusing on digital and social media is a must. In addition to infusing the digital personalized experience into the in-store shopping experience, J.Crew needs to update their merchandise strategy to appeal to current customer preferences. Classic styles are not what’s hot in fashion today and retailers need to adapt to the latest trends. J.Crew should also expand its wholesale brand strategy to more retail chains to drive incremental revenues.

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