MaryEllen MacDowell, most recently president of Charming Shoppes Inc.’s Lane Bryant Outlet division, has been appointed president of the company’s Fashion Bug unit. She succeeds Jay Levitt, who has left the firm after two years in the post.
Additionally, Laura Johnson, previously president and chief executive officer of Zac Posen/House of Z LLC, has joined Fashion Bug as executive vice president, merchandising and product development, reporting to MacDowell.
MacDowell has been with Bensalem, Pa.-based Charming Shoppes since 2002 and has held executive merchandising positions at the Fashion Bug and Lane Bryant divisions. Her retail résumé includes posts with Federated Merchandising Group, Lord & Taylor and Filene’s.
Prior to joining Zac Posen, Johnson served as a general merchandise manager at Urban Outfitters Inc. and held posts at Barneys New York, the Banana Republic unit of Gap Inc. and Limited Stores.
Fashion Bug, like the rest of the Charming Shoppes organization, has been hit hard by the recession and lagging demand in the plus-size market in which it is the dominant specialty player. Last year, the Fashion Bug division generated sales of $692.1 million versus $855.4 million in 2009, a 19.1 percent decrease. With fewer stores in operation — 801 at year’s end versus 897 a year earlier — same-store sales were off a more modest 14 percent, higher than the corporate decline of 13 percent. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization declined to $7.5 million from $16.9 million in 2009 and $83.4 million in 2008. Charming Shoppes expects to close between 100 and 120 Fashion Bug units this year.