J.Crew Group, which runs the J. Crew and Madewell brands, on Tuesday said that Jan Singer will begin serving as Chief Executive Officer of the J. Crew brand and a member of the board, effective Feb. 2. She will be responsible "for all aspects of the J.Crew and J.Crew Factory brands and businesses," according to a company press release.
Singer has more than 25 years of retail experience, most recently serving two years as CEO of Victoria's Secret Lingerie. She was also previously CEO of Spanx and a Nike executive.
Michael Nicholson, who has led the company in the interim, will return to his role as president and chief operating officer of J.Crew Group. Former J. Crew brand president Libby Wadle will continue as president and CEO of Madewell, reporting separately to the board.
Singer came and went fairly swiftly amid rising trouble at Victoria's Secret. Since her departure late in 2018, sales at the lingerie giant have continued to deteriorate as the brand seems ill-equipped to pivot from the sexualized marketing and merchandise styles that have been left behind by consumers, especially younger ones.
Her task at J. Crew will be somewhat similar, in that the brand has fallen from its fashion perch, beset by design and quality missteps and overshadowed by smaller sibling Madewell. In its most recent quarter, J. Crew sales fell 4% to $415.8 million and comps were flat, as Madewell sales rose 13% to $151.6 million and comps rose 10%.
Madewell is being positioned as a savior of sorts. Executives have said that their plan to spin it off via an initial public offering is poised to aid J. Crew, thanks to an agreement with lenders they say would ease J. Crew's debilitating debt load. In the meantime, the company is scaling back J. Crew's physical footprint in favor of e-commerce, while scrambling to enlarge Madewell's — last year the company initiated plans to open one J. Crew store and shutter 20, while opening 10 Madewell stores.
But J. Crew may end up with less than executives hope, due to what some observers say are unrealistic projections for Madewell. Moody's Investors Service in September questioned the company's $1.9 billion to $2.9 billion valuation, saying it's likely closer to $1.2 billion to $1.9 billion. Furthermore, adding stores may not spur Madewell's growth the way executives assume it will, according to Lee Peterson, executive vice president of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners. As of Tuesday, the company operated 184 J. Crew stores, 138 Madewell stores and 171 factory stores, along with e-commerce sites for the three brands, per the company's release.
"Madewell already has 130 stores, there's not going to be growth," Peterson told Retail Dive in a recent interview.