Ascena Retail Group announced on Monday the promotion of Erin Stern, who has been chief merchandising officer for its Maurices brand, to president of its Dressbarn unit.
Before going to Maurices, Stern had spent most of her career at Gap Inc. in various leadership roles, according to a company press release. She has also served as chief merchant for Juicy Couture and as president of Bebe Sport.
Ascena Retail Group delivered disappointing results in the first quarter of its 2018 fiscal year, reflecting its overall 5% same-store sales decline. Many of its brands — which include premium labels Ann Taylor and Loft and lower-priced banners Maurices and Dressbarn, among others — are struggling.
Many of the brands in Ascena's stable continue to falter as the company tries to turn itself around, an effort that includes shuttering more than 250 locations, or 25% of its fleet, by the end of 2019.
The company is suffering in part from obstacles of its own making, CEO David Jaffe admitted in a conference call with analysts last month, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. "We need to see more top-line momentum," he said. "We were unable to capitalize on the improving macro traffic trends due to fashion missteps that we cannot afford in today's environment. We continue to deliver double-digit transaction growth in our direct channel, but must improve our overall level of merchandising execution."
Previously, executives have said that, in particular, Dressbarn, a women's clothing retailer known best for its inexpensive, unassuming workday wear, needs "more fashion depth." A couple of years ago the banner introduced an uncharacteristically fashion-forward set of collaborations known as Dressbar, with lines that included dresses by designers Carmen Marc Valvo, Heidi Weisel, and Michael Smaldone. That was also an omnichannel effort, with a physical pop-up in New York City and a digital "experience" that includes interactive search features with advice, editorial content and social media engagement.
That effort hasn't moved the needle. The brand's same-store sales contributed to the company's overall troubles in the first quarter with a 10% plunge in that metric. Ascena executives said that they believe Stern can reverse Dressbarn's fortunes.
"Erin brings extraordinary strategic, branding and merchandising capabilities that will complement our current leadership team," Gary Muto, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ascena Brands, said in a statement. "I've known Erin from our work together at ascena, but also when our career paths crossed at Gap Inc. She is an extremely talented leader with a passion for product, brand and our customer."