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Caryn Lerner Out at Daffy’s

Marcia Wilson re-assumes chief executive’s role.

NEW YORK — Daffy’s chief executive officer Caryn Lerner has left the off-price chain after just a year on the job.

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company’s chairman, Marcia Wilson, has resumed the role of ceo, a position she held from April 1996 until March 2011. Wilson also will continue as chairman.

“Originally, I was looking to an outside ceo because we were so inbred I really felt we needed more structure and discipline,” Wilson said in an interview Friday. “It was just an overall process of examining our operations and competitive positioning. Caryn helped us achieve part of the structure and discipline we were looking for. It’s not unusual for businesses to look back to their founders.”

Asked if Lerner was fired, Wilson replied: “No. It was absolutely mutual.”

Wilson also said that she is not seeking a new ceo. “We recognized that the right strategy for the future was to go back to our core values: great bargains and great fashions.”

Lerner, who previously was president and ceo of Holt Renfrew in Canada and prior to that president of Escada USA, was on a mission to better organize Daffy’s assortments by polishing the presentations for greater consistency door-to-door and deepen assortments on key labels so customers could fill much of their wardrobing needs. She also intended to elevate “the thrill of the hunt” for the fashion bargain, and reduce some of the tedium of rummaging through the racks.

Daffy’s stores vary greatly in size and merchandising strength, from the 100,000-square-foot Herald Square and 52,000-square-foot 57th Street stores, two of the chain’s top units, to the 20,000-square-foot Madison Avenue unit, which months ago Lerner had acknowledged as among the more challenged locations.

The 19-unit, $150 million Daffy’s chain has been family owned and operated since it was founded 50 years ago by the late Irving Shulman, Wilson’s father. Shulman began with one store in Elizabeth, N.J., which was called Daffy Dan’s Bargain Town. Stores are located in the New York City metropolitan region.

At the time Lerner was hired, Wilson mentioned the possibility of selling the company. “It’s always somewhere in the back of my mind. It’s not in the foreground of my mind,” she said last week.

Asked how Daffy’s is performing, she said, “It’s doing OK. We’ve got a strong foundation and a great brand. It’s been challenging the past year, but we managed to come out OK.”