Just 15 months into his mission to turn around J. Crew Group, Jim Brett is out as chief executive officer, the company said Saturday morning.
The struggling retailer said a “mutual agreement” was reached by the board and Brett, but sources said Brett was forced out.
The J. Crew brand has been struggling for three years, grappling fashion misses, pricing issues and management changes as well as not long ago restructuring its debt to make it more manageable.
To offset difficulties at the J. Crew brand, the corporation has been growing its successful denim-based Madewell division and it’s recently started the Mercantile lower-priced division. Also, third-party brands are being added to the assortment.
Sources also said this fall’s relaunch of the J. Crew brand lacked sufficient verve.
“I didn’t like it. They took out the whimsy. They made it more mainstream,“ said one retail expert who asked to not be named. ”They brought the prices down and the quality down. It made my stomach sink. I was disappointed in the roadmap.”
Part of the strategy involved doubling down on Crew’s “iconic” styles such as the ballet flats, suiting, cashmere and graphic T-shirts.
”Recapturing what J. Crew stood for is really hard to execute,” said the source.
The source also said there was a lot of tension between Brett and his new guard and the old guard at J. Crew.
However, while things didn’t work out at J. Crew, Brett is credited with successfully growing and having a lasting impact on West Elm, where he worked before joining J. Crew in July 2017.
“Returning J. Crew to its iconic status required reinventing the brand to reflect the America of today with a more expansive, more inclusive fashion concept,” Brett said. “However, despite the recent brand relaunch already showing positive results, the board and I were unable to bridge our beliefs on how to continue to evolve all aspects of the company.”
While the company searches for a new ceo, Brett’s responsibilities will be assumed by an office of the ceo comprised of Michael Nicholson, president and chief operating officer; Adam Brotman, president and chief experience officer; Lynda Markoe, chief administration officer, and Libby Wadle, president of Madewell.
“Jim’s passion and experience brought new energy to J. Crew and enhanced our ability to relate to a broad range of consumers and we thank him for his hard work and thoughtful contributions to position our company for long-term success,” the board said in a statement.