Can a former Victoria’s Secret exec turn J.Crew around?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Jan 29, 2020
George Anderson

It took more than a year, but sales-challenged and debt-laden J.Crew has a new chief executive officer. The retailer announced that Jan Singer, who most recently served as CEO of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, will join the company on Feb. 2. 

In her new role, Ms. Singer will be responsible for all aspects of the J.Crew and J.Crew Factory businesses. 

Before her time at Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Ms. Singer served as CEO at Spanx. The 25-year retail industry veteran also spent 10 years at Nike, where she led the brand’s global footwear and apparel teams.

“Over the past year, we have made great progress restoring profitability at the J.Crew brand, while further optimizing our operations, thereby establishing a strong foundation for long-term growth,” said Chad Leat, chairman of J.Crew’s board of directors, in a statement. “Jan’s passion for our brand, focused vision of our potential and deep understanding of the modern consumer will be invaluable in rebuilding the strategic positioning and prestige of our iconic brand and company.”

“J.Crew has led specialty retail by knowing what it takes to be a brand — putting the consumer first and at the center,” said Ms. Singer. “My passion for developing product, brand experiences and teams feels very at home at J.Crew. It’s a beloved brand that has always been in my heart and, like millions of consumers, in my closet.” 

Michael Nicholson, who served as interim CEO at J.Crew, will return to his role as the company’s president and COO upon Ms. Singer’s arrival. 

J.Crew Group, which is owned by private equity TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners, lost more than $80 million during the first nine months of its current fiscal year, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The company is planning to spin off its Madewell business, which has connected with younger consumers in search of casual clothes. Madewell’s sales are up 14 percent fiscal year to date.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the biggest challenges you expect Jan Singer to face in her new position? What will she need to do to turn J.Crew’s business around?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"They are no different than Gap at this point, but with the extra concern of a giant debt hangover. This is going to be a tough turnaround, so I wish her the best of luck!"
"I know little about Ms. Singer, but her background at Victoria’s Secret is a cautionary sign."
"I think J.Crew has a merchandising and pricing issue in front of them to solve."

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "Can a former Victoria’s Secret exec turn J.Crew around?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

I think J.Crew has a merchandising and pricing issue in front of them to solve. From my personal shopping experiences with them, there never seems to be a size or a style I want that is anything I can’t already get at Macy’s (typically down the “road” in the mall). I think they need to pick one thing and do it well. They need to establish themselves as a place to go for a specific type of clothing and go from there. For me, Ralph Lauren is my “button down shirt” place. Banana Republic is where I go to buy pants. Bonobos for chinos … what is J.Crew? The answer to that question should be their starting point. Get me into the store for the shirt, I’ll buy the other stuff while I’m there.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

Singer’s biggest challenge is the same as most specialty clothing retailers – how to create a brand and seamless shopping experience that is interesting enough to attract consumers away from both Amazon and Target. I hope she can do it, J.Crew is great and worth saving.

Stephen Rector
BrainTrust

The biggest challenges for Jan Singer are making J.Crew relevant again and improving the quality of the product. Over the past few years as the brand has gone more promotional on a consistent basis, in order to “afford” these markdowns, they have stripped the garments and it shows. They are no different than Gap at this point, but with the extra concern of a giant debt hangover. This is going to be a tough turnaround, so I wish her the best of luck!

Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

Well said!

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

In my opinion, Ms. Singer faces an assortment challenge. And there is a risk that the iconic nature of the J.Crew brand, driven in large part by their signature style, will restrict their ability to develop new assortments that are more relevant to today’s market.

Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

Agreed Dave! (hope you’re doing well my friend).

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Thanks, Zach – same to you!

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I know little about Ms. Singer, but her background at Victoria’s Secret is a cautionary sign. (See today’s WSJ article about Les Wexner’s looming decision to sell VS.) J. Crew, like VS, is a lifestyle brand that has lost its way at the same time that mall-based apparel chains are struggling. Somehow Madewell figured out how to be relevant, and it starts with product alongside a value proposition. I wish Ms. Singer luck, but I’m not sure J. Crew can be salvaged in its current form.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

J.Crew has unfortunately lost its edge over the past few years, as there are fundamental challenges with its assortment strategies, pricing, brand positioning, and customer value proposition. The customer experience, across all shopping channels, has to be front and center for Ms. Singer, as she and the J.Crew executive team drive their transformation plans forward.

The brand needs to regain its sense of purpose, its “why” and its ability to competitively position the J.Crew brand against its direct competitors. Regaining its sense of fashion edginess will be key in competing in the middle sector of retail. Not an easy proposition, and it will take time, effort and significant changes to make it happen.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Bleeding 10 million a month doesn’t bode well for a quick turnaround. Or a turnaround at all. Who is the J.Crew customer? Are enough of them left to market to? Are Millennials who are more inclined to rent than own going to appreciate the quality vs. the cost to own? The first two problems remind me of those faced by Gap and J.C. Penney, and we see how that’s going…

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

To even think that one person could turn this rocket ship around is such ’90s/merchant prince/princess thinking. The question is: does Singer have the leadership skills to hire people better than her and the savvy to even know what’s needed in this, the sunset of specialty retail? Gonna take a village, folks.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Product first, execution next. Unfortunately any refinement in product direction will likely take well over six months to see the first of the new items arriving. Maybe it’s execution first while the product life cycle starts to hit. (as Dave said, it’s the assortment.)

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"They are no different than Gap at this point, but with the extra concern of a giant debt hangover. This is going to be a tough turnaround, so I wish her the best of luck!"
"I know little about Ms. Singer, but her background at Victoria’s Secret is a cautionary sign."
"I think J.Crew has a merchandising and pricing issue in front of them to solve."

Take Our Instant Poll

How optimistic are you about the prospects for a turnaround at J.Crew?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...