After only 17 months, James “Jim” Brett is stepping down as CEO of J. Crew. This may not come as much of a surprise to some folks, as his arrival in June of 2017 was not without concern. Furthermore, in a recent statement, he hinted that he and the board did not exactly see eye to eye.
He remarks that part of his job, of course, was to return J. Crew to its past iconic status through the reinvention of the brand, a move that should have more readily reflected today’s American culture. But even with a more expansive and inclusive concept generating some positive buzz in the market, he says, they could not bridge their personal beliefs on how to manage other aspects of the business.
Brett was charged with leading J. Crew’s turnaround strategy, coming aboard after many years of struggling sales. Actually, the store had been regarded as too expensive and impractical when it was under the guidance of former leadership, CEO Mickey Drexler and [longtime] creative director Jenna Lyons. Drexler, of course, took some of his success with the Gap to position J. Crew as a flagship preppy brand for 14 years before stepping down. Brett had changed the format by lowering prices and adding a plus-size category to the merchandise. His most recent strategy was to start selling the company’s lower-cost Mercantile collection through Amazon.
These moves seemed to be the right ones. For one, same-store sales turned a very important corner in J. Crew’s most recent quarterly report after four straight years of decline. Then, in August, the company’s namesake brand reported second-quarter comparable sales were up 1 percent. The following month, J. Crew unveiled a new look, introduced by a diversity-driven ad campaign that featured workers form creative and non-profit organizations donning the brand’s clothing.
That said, J. Crew will now be headed up by a team of executives. The four in charge for the time being—until the board can find a permanent replacement for Brett—include Chief Operating Officer Michael Nicholson, Chief Experience Officer Adam Brotman, Chief Administrative Officer Lynda Markoe, and Madewell brand President Libby Wadle.