- Fast fashion retailer Rue21 announced Monday that Michael Appel is no longer serving as the company's CEO and chairman of the board, according to a press release sent to Retail Dive.
- John Fleming has been named as interim CEO of the retailer, per the release.
- Fleming previously held executive positions at Walmart, Uniqlo and Dayton Hudson (which in the early 2000s became Target Corporation). He also currently serves on the boards of Bed Bath & Beyond and Untuckit, and has been a board member of R21 Holdings since 2017.
Rue21 is ready for change.
"It was just time for new leadership for our next phase of growth," Fleming said in an interview with Retail Dive.
Former CEO Appel took charge of the teen apparel retailer just after a time of upheaval in 2017, when the company shuttered hundreds of stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and subsequently went through a reorganization.
"There were like two or three companies that I can think of that were in the same boat, and I think we're the only ones that made it to the other side," Fleming stated.
In 2018, R21 Holdings announced that Laurie Van Brunt, who was formerly the president of Soma Intimates at Chico's FAS, would be president and CEO of the brand. She resigned from the position five months later and Appel, who was interim CEO immediately following the bankruptcy, again took on the CEO role.
Now, about 15 months later, the retailer has named its next leader.
"This retail apocalypse — I don't see it that way," Fleming said. "There's just winners and losers. And, you know, the winners have adapted to the fact that the customers' expectations have changed."
Rue21's store count is hovering just under 700, which is smaller than its pre-bankruptcy days, but still relatively robust when many retailers are right-sizing, specifically within the apparel category. But, Fleming states that an objective for Rue21 is to meet the customer wherever they are, particularly through online channels, an area he has extensive experience in, formerly serving as Walmart.com's CEO and Uniqlo's global e-commerce CEO.
"It's really about the brand and then making it accessible," he stated. "It's building out a better website, better mobile experience, being able to develop a loyalty program to speak more directly to the customers."