Francesca's Holdings Corp. on Thursday announced the appointment of Andrew Clarke as president and chief executive officer and member of the board, effective March 9.
He replaces Michael Prendergast, who has served as interim CEO for the past year, according to a press release.
Clarke has 25 years of retail experience, much of it in apparel. He was most recently president of Ascena apparel brand Loft, and before that merchandising chief at Ascena's Justice tween apparel brand.
Francesca's has had a turbulent year. For the past several months, under Prendergast's leadership, the apparel company sought to stem falling sales and hold onto its position on the stock market where it trades.
Through various maneuvers, including store closures and a reverse stock split, the company regained compliance and continued to trade shares, and net sales and comps had stabilized by the end of the year. Enter Clarke, who left Ascena last July, according to his LinkedIn page, just two years after joining the conglomerate as Justice merchandise chief and a year after taking on leadership of Loft.
Before his arrival at Ascena, Clarke led Kmart apparel for Sears Holdings after having begun his career at Marks and Spencer, and led product at French fast-fashion chain Pimkie. His fast-fashion experience could be attractive to Francesca's, although that apparel segment is falling out of favor as younger consumers increasingly reject the idea of disposable apparel.
Francesca's, like all apparel retailers, faces other challenges this year. China tariffs have been a preoccupation, according to a Refinitiv analysis of fourth quarter earnings calls emailed to Retail Dive, and discussions around the coronavirus that emerged two weeks ago have steadily increased.
Prendergast is sticking around for some of that. He is a senior director in the private equity performance improvement retail practice at Alvarez & Marsal and Francesca's said Thursday that he "will remain with francesca's for a period of time to ensure a seamless transition" and that Alvarez & Marsal's "merchandising, planning and allocation consulting services will continue until those roles are replaced."