J. Crew, the preppy retailer that has fallen out of favor in recent years, finally has a new leader who will be charged with reviving its brand.
Jan Singer, a former chief executive of Victoria’s Secret’s lingerie division and Spanx, will start as J. Crew’s C.E.O. on Sunday, the retailer said in a statement on Tuesday. J. Crew, which is backed by private equity, has been struggling to fill a leadership void for more than a year while trying to turn around its business.
The company’s management structure has been shaky since Millard Drexler, its well-known chief executive, stepped down in 2017. James Brett, the former president of West Elm, succeeded Mr. Drexler as chief but left abruptly in November 2018.
The company has been led by Michael J. Nicholson, its chief operating officer, on an interim basis since last April. Mr. Nicholson will resume his previous role. Mr. Drexler, known as Mickey, has continued to work for J. Crew as a strategic adviser and retains a stake in the company, according to the retailer’s most recent annual filing.
Ms. Singer, who has also held executive roles at Nike, was most recently at Victoria’s Secret, which she left in 2018 after a brief tenure. She will not oversee the Madewell brand, which J. Crew is planning to spin off to bring in much-needed capital. “I’m excited and honored to join this iconic brand and team at such an important time,” she said in the statement.
The company, which began the last decade as a retail darling and a favorite of Michelle Obama, was taken private in 2011 in a $3 billion deal led by TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners. But the brand’s sales started to slip in 2015 after it started to lose appeal with many of its core customers. The deal has left J. Crew with more than $1.5 billion in debt.
Madewell, which was built up in the digital era and resonated with millennial and Gen Z shoppers, has seen its fortunes diverge from J. Crew. In the first nine months of last year, Madewell saw its sales jump 14 percent to $424 million, while the J. Crew brand’s sales tumbled 5 percent to $1.19 billion.
As of December, the company said it operated 191 J. Crew stores, 138 Madewell locations and 172 factory outlet stores.
While J. Crew said last year that a potential initial public offering for Madewell could be completed in the second half of 2019, the listing has not yet taken place.