A big "thanks!" again to Raina for letting us know about it on Thursday & for sharing the video below from Racked (click here). Another big "thanks!" to Suzy (in this post) who let us know that the article is available online today! :) The following is an excerpt of the article (click here to read it in its entirety).
Mickey Drexler: Retail Therapist
By Tina Gaudoin
June 10, 2010
It was Steve Jobs who informed Millard “Mickey” Drexler that he was about to be fired from Gap, a company he had taken from $400 million in annual revenues to $14 billion and from 450 stores to more than 2,000 in the span of 19 years. “Steve, who was on the board, called and told me the night before,” Drexler says, recalling their May 2002 conversation. He knew it was coming. Although he’d been celebrated in the media for years as the “merchant prince”—the man who had the answer to the curious riddle of retail (just how do you get a customer to buy more than one pair of jeans?)—Gap’s growth had stalled in the two and a half years leading up to his firing: Same-store sales had dropped by double digits every quarter between 2000 and 2002 and the stock had plummeted 75 percent.
...The Wasp privilege–meets-street-smart-kid vibe has become Drexler’s calling card. At Gap he turned the wearing of khakis into an art form (who can forget the Ernest Hemingway wears khakis campaign?), and now at J. Crew he is spinning sequins, combat pants and cashmere into a raging success story. In 2005, the company turned its first profit in five years, and between 2003 and 2008 revenues rose 107 percent. In 2006, Drexler presided over a very successful IPO. In 2009, revenues ($1.57 billion) exceeded pre-recession levels and same-store sales climbed 11 percent. Profits jumped 40 percent. When Drexler took up the reins in 2003, J. Crew had $609 million in debt and 196 stores. Today, it has 321 stores, less than $50 million in debt and $298 million cash on hand.
The first family are fans: All four wore the brand during last year’s inauguration festivities. Though he won’t discuss his most famous customers (“We respect their privacy”), he does admit to checking sales figures after Oprah wore, and waxed lyrical about, the company’s shoes this spring during a segment with executive creative director Jenna Lyons. He was also pretty happy when the Queen of Media admitted to her 5.6 million viewers: “When I saw the first lady, even before she became first lady, wearing J. Crew—full disclosure here—I bought some J. Crew stock. And that was a very good decision.” (The stock has risen 119 percent since Michelle Obama appeared on “The Tonight Show” in a yellow J. Crew ensemble in fall 2008 and 132 percent since Drexler took the company public.)
So what drives Mickey Drexler? A man so obsessed and passionate about his job, the customer and the product that he personally answers shoppers’ emails and telephone calls, makes split-second decisions about entire lines based on “a gut feel,” talks to his 695-strong team constantly via an elaborate intercom system and treats routine store visits (of which he makes at least five per week) as a holiday: “They don’t count as work.”
...“Whether you have wealth or not is irrelevant when it comes to appreciating quality—even if you can’t afford it, you can respect it,” Drexler says to an assembled team of designers, buyers and merchants before they begin their fall 2010 holiday presentation for “the boss,” who, coincidentally, is a disciple of The Boss and quotes from him often, telling everyone today, “We practice every day, as Bruce says.” The atmosphere at J. Crew’s headquarters in downtown New York is a heady mix of adrenaline and nervous anticipation. Fake snow flutters behind fake cabin windows and somewhere a vague cinnamon scent emanates, desperately evoking the spirit of December on this unseasonably warm spring day in April. ...
...“The customer can tell you a lot,” Drexler says. “They can give you feedback on fit and specs on operational issues even, but they can’t tell you what’s coming down the road. For that, you are always listening and learning, but when it comes to the fashion part, it’s having a certain creativity; it’s getting a sense of how the world changes.” It’s also having keen business acumen, something TPG Capital co-founder James Coulter, who joined J. Crew’s board at the time of his firm’s acquisition, sees as being overlooked in Drexler. “So much is written about him as a merchant. Rarely does anyone write about the power of him as a businessman. He has to lead all the way from the drawing of the piece of clothing to the checkout of it at the store.” ...
Love, love, love this article! It is super fascinating to read about Mickey Drexler's story with J.Crew and all the events leading up to their recent success. And the video is just as awesome!
What are your thoughts on the article & video? Do you like Mickey Drexler more or less after reading this article? Any points you found particularly interesting or note-worthy? If so, please share! :)