Jenna Lyons’ Stylish -and Strategic- Send-off

It’s that time again when the air gets crisp and cool and the school year rears its demanding head. New supplies and new clothes fill drawers and closets. One popular retailer comes to mind as a go-to for sophisticated, functional back-to-school style. Although this famous American retailer survived the Great Recession of 2008 and has made comeback after comeback, J. Crew has seen a consistent downward slide over the years in both popularity and retail. This decline in stability has led the company to make some major changes that are driven heavily by strategy.

In the beginning of the internet age, J. Crew was well-placed as a fashion leader, comfortably sitting just a bit smarter than competitors and consistently, but slowly, releasing new pieces. But now consumers are accustomed to instant access to the latest trends, the ability to research and compare between competitors and an almost unquenchable need for speed. J. Crew has failed to keep up with these consumer needs. Net sales at J. Crew were $2 billion in 2016, down 6 percent from the previous year. Their inability to deliver new, enticing products in a timely manner has left J. Crew a few imperative steps behind the rest.

The scramble to stay relevant eventually finds nearly all companies. Many companies opt for more training, new campaigns or internal measures. However, in response to this, J. Crew made significant changes in leadership. In April 2017, former CIO Jenna Lyons strategically and stylishly exited J. Crew after 26 years, leaving behind a forever-changed industry.  “Jenna and I got together and we both agreed it was time for a change,” J.Crew chief executive Millard “Mickey” Drexler told BoF in an exclusive interview.

Lyons wasn’t the only one to exit J. Crew as part of its mission to adapt to current and future trends. According to a press release from J. Crew, 150 full-time employees and 100 open positions primarily from its corporate headquarters were eliminated from the company as well. With such drastic changes to the internal structure of the company, the payout is also predicted to be drastic. J. Crew predicts realizing about $30 million from pre-tax savings thanks to these changes.

What’s next for the embattled retailer who has suffered from sluggish sales at the registers for years? While it may have enjoyed its temporary stroll around the high-fashion block for a while, J. Crew is beginning to see the need to cater generously to consumers. With hundreds of internal changes, the company is ready for strategic revamp in the coming years. Campaigns and merchandise will likely reflect the consumers’ desire for more affordable, practical product. J. Crew will see success as it tosses out the superior attitude of the past, and embraces a more for-everyone culture and delivery. The strategic internal shifts will likely serve the company well as it enters the all-to-common organizational race to relevance.