NEW YORK — Lucy Activewear, the 13-unit chain that was one of the first retailers devoted exclusively to active women, has named a new president and chief executive officer, Michael J. Edwards, to direct a store expansion program and oversee the company’s growth.
Edwards will take over the ceo slot on June 14, succeeding founder and current president Sue Levin, who will continue to serve on the board of directors and act as a strategic adviser.
Edwards, 43, has an extensive track record in the retail business, most recently as executive vice president of operations at craft chain Jo-Ann Stores. He has also held merchandising and executive positions at May Co., Target Corp., Golfsmith and CompUSA.
“I believe I took Lucy as far as I could or should take it,” said Levin, a former Nike executive, in a phone interview Wednesday. “As we develop and grow, we need someone who has retail rollout experience. Mike’s vast retail knowledge and operational strength will enable us to grow the company rapidly and profitably in coming years.”
Edwards couldn’t be reached for comment.
Lucy, which is based in Portland, Ore., and has estimated sales of about $15 million, recently received a round of new financing to help facilitate its growth plans, Levin said. Its investors include Sutter Hill Ventures, Maveron LLC and Oak Investment Partners.
Levin declined to reveal the amount of the additional investment, or to give many details about the store openings. She said the scope of new units will be determined when Edwards officially joins, adding that the firm and its investors see potential for aggressive national expansion. “I am still going to be very involved,” she added. “This change allows me to focus on the things where I have greater strengths. I am not a construction project manager.”
Levin founded Lucy in 1999 as a Web site and catalogue catering to active women of different ages, sizes and fitness levels. Then known as lucy.com, the firm spent millions of dollars in its first year on an extensive marketing campaign that included direct mail, print advertising and online advertising. Following the Internet bust in 2001, Lucy shifted its focus to brick-and-mortar stores. In the last few years, the firm has been relatively quiet, opening a few stores a year.
Lucy still occupies a relatively uncrowded niche in the market. While a number of new active catalogues for women have sprung up in recent years, there are still few stores focused on this category. Nike plans to develop its Nikewomen concept, formerly known as Nike Goddess, and other competition comes from established sporting goods chains such as Sports Authority and Lady Foot Locker.
The company had a boutique in Manhattan at Crunch gym, but that location will close next month when the lease expires, Levin said. The stores carry a range of branded merchandise from firms including Puma, Nike, Adidas and Om Girl, as well as its own namesake brand.