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Juicy Couture has found its guy.
This story first appeared in the February 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
David Bassuk, a consultant who has been working to help right the brand, will step in full time as co-president and chief operating officer beginning Feb. 27.
Bassuk will oversee the company’s finances, planning and allocation, international and e-commerce operations as well as its wholesale business and its facilities. He will work alongside LeAnn Nealz, co-president and chief creative officer. Both Bassuk and Nealz report to William L. McComb, chief executive officer of Juicy’s parent, Liz Claiborne Inc.
As head of AlixPartners’ global retail practice, Bassuk has been working with Juicy for several months, touching many of the areas that he will now oversee.
“I have been inside and I have an appreciation now for the momentum that the business has and also the operational opportunities that the business has,” Bassuk said. “There’s just tons of potential with this brand. The brand direction that LeAnn is taking is very promising. She’s really thinking global.”
Founded in 1997, Juicy made a big splash with its fashion-casual velour sweat suits. Claiborne bought the brand in 2003 and helped fuel a dramatic expansion, but Juicy stumbled in recent years. Founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor relinquished day-to-day responsibility for the brand Sales productivity totaled $435 per average square foot for the nine months, down from $519 a year earlier.
New product reflecting Nealz’s updated vision for the label only began hitting stores in January, however.
“This is a brand that has a strong heritage and a very strong history with the core product,” Bassuk said. “There’s also a reinvention underway and in place to take the brand to a new place. The global reach today is very strong, but the global potential is immense.”
Much of that potential is in the accessories area, which could make up over 50 percent of the business, up from 38 percent to 41 percent currently. McComb has also talked about rolling out Juicy-branded accessories stores globally.
“I definitely believe that Bill has the right vision for this brand and this business in general and I look forward to working alongside of him and LeAnn,” Bassuk said.
The power sharing arrangement atop Juicy is familiar territory for the consultant.
“I come from a firm, AlixPartners, that has the exact same model, which is every practice area has co-leadership and I think there’s a lot of value with that, the ability to bring together two people with complementary skill sets,” he said. “There’s also the ability to lean on each other when times are tough.”
“Dave and I complement each other perfectly, and we have worked very well together over the past few months,” Nealz said.
“Juicy is on track for a great year,” McComb said. “Juicy will represent the single greatest inflection point change in our business this year. I’m just really happy to have LeAnn’s partner ready to go. This is the right guy. He’s a natural born leader. I think it’s an incredible plus that he’s got all this dirt under his fingernails from learnings from so many clients.”
Finalizing Juicy’s leadership ticks off another important box on McComb’s to-do list. Already, the ceo has streamlined Liz Claiborne’s cost structure and paid down debt. Last year, he sold off the Liz Claiborne brand as well as a majority interest in Mexx and raised cash by updating a fragrance agreement with Elizabeth Arden Inc. He plans to change the name of the group to Fifth & Pacific Cos. in May.
“It’s a different world,” McComb said of the business now. “We’re playing offense here, we’re not playing defense.”