Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Moving from one turnaround job to another, Richard P. Crystal, chief executive officer of Merry-Go-Round and a Macy’s veteran, will become president and ceo of the Lerner New York division of Limited Inc. in mid-April.
Crystal’s appointment comes at a crucial time for the $1 billion division, which was purchased by the Limited in 1985 and has yet to meet expectations. The chain continues to search for a clear niche in the women’s market while posting disappointing figures.
However, some progress was seen last year with an improvement in the quality of the merchandise. Budget prices were maintained and there was a more defined look that catered to a working woman in the 35-to-55-year-old range. In addition, last year, Lerner’s developed a higher profile and began staging fashion shows for the press. With a little more confidence in its merchandise, The Limited, some executives have hinted, could step up marketing efforts further.
However, in 1995, it still posted slumping operating profits and weak same-store sales. This year, the chain will close 25 units, bringing it down to 810 stores by yearend. Asked about the changes at Lerner’s over the last year, Crystal said, “It seems to be headed in the right direction.” He declined to comment on plans for the chain, saying he needs to spend some time learning more about the business first.
Referring to recent trends in women’s specialty business, he said, “Apparel has been generally difficult, but we’re now seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Crystal was with Macy’s from 1974 until 1995, last serving as chairman and chief executive officer of the specialty store and product development divisions. In July 1995, he became president and ceo of Merry-Go-Round, and unsuccessfully tried to revive the bankrupt chain. It is currently being liquidated. At Lerner’s, Crystal succeeds Pamela Goodman, who resigned under unusual circumstances last January. Goodman’s resignation followed an “independent review, under the company’s code of business conduct, of certain conflict of interest issues arising out of Ms. Goodman’s marriage,” Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement at the time. In the spring of ’95, Goodman married Barry Goodman, president of Channel Textiles, which is a major supplier to Lerner’s and other Limited divisions. Wexner said the review discovered “neither any misconduct nor any adverse impact on the business” and added that The Limited will continue to do business with Channel Textiles. Crystal is currently involved in a legal dispute over his $2 million compensation package from MGR. The trustee in the bankruptcy case recently held it up, pending a review of his performance and his employment contract. Crystal would not comment on the situation.

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