retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Millard "Mickey" Drexler, one of the most legendary fashion retailers of the past 50 years, announced yesterday that he is stepping down as CEO of J. Crew and will be succeeded by James Brett, president of the West Elm home furnishing business. Drexler, 72, will keep his ownership stake in J. Crew, as well as the chairmanship of the company, but, as the New York Times writes, the move "signals the end of a fashion era," precipitated because while Drexler helped reinvent J. Crew starting in 2003, he could not stop a recent decline as the company saw same-store sales declines in 11 of the pst 12 quarters.
KC's View:
This isn't the first time this has happened to Drexler. As the Times notes, "Drexler was credited with creating the 1990s office uniform of a button-down shirt and khaki pants during his 18-year career at Gap. He saw that brand’s sales grow to $14 billion from $400 million and created Gap’s discount cousin, Old Navy. But he was fired in 2002 after 24 consecutive months of declines in same-store sales."

Perhaps it is the inevitable cyclical nature of the fashion business. Maybe Drexler just lost a step, as the company recently seemed to be selling lines that were too late, too expensive, and too unconnected to what people wanted. But whatever it is, this event - and in the clothing biz, this is nothing less than an event - demonstrates the importance of continuous reinvention and innovation, and when that doesn't happen, even the greats can fall.