Dawn Robertson, the former president of Old Navy, has joined Sean John as president, WWD has learned.
Praising “the brand and its potential,” Robert said Sean “Diddy” Combs “is a terrific marketer and the brand has such a strong affiliation with music.”
Robertson said she will oversee the wholesale and retail operations of Sean John. She succeeds Robert Wichser, who left last year to become a principal at The Yucaipa Cos., billionaire Ron Burkle’s private equity firm, which has a stake in Sean John.
Robertson will report to the board and Combs, founder of the 10-year-old Sean John brand.
The brand is widely recognized and distributed in better department and specialty stores, and is estimated to generate retail volume of about $400 million to $500 million. With the bulk of the business in men’s wear, Robertson noted that there is a major opportunity to develop the women’s business. There have been some hiccups in women’s. A contemporary line, Sean by Sean Combs, closed in March 2006 after being offered at retail for less than a year. The Sean John women’s business includes juniors, produced in-house, and outerwear for women, which is produced under license with G-III Apparel Group.
Robertson singled out retailing as a vastly underdeveloped component of the Sean John business. There is only one regular-priced Sean John store that operates on Fifth Avenue across from the New York Public Library. There are also 10 outlets. When the Fifth Avenue store opened, executives envisioned units operating around the country, but the ambitions have not been realized.
Robertson worked at Old Navy for 16 months until February. The chain had been struggling when she arrived, and she made changes in an attempt to turn around the business. Most significantly, she led efforts to reduce the cycle time on product development so the store could be faster with fashion. However, the chain continued to suffer from negative sales trends.
Before Old Navy, Robertson was managing director of the Myer department store chain in Australia. She also was a Federated Department Stores Inc. executive, where at one time she was president of Federated Direct.
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