J. Crew Names New CFO After Posting Another Plunge in Sales

J. Crew Group Inc. named Michael Nicholson as its chief operating officer and chief financial officer, turning to a former Ann Inc. executive to help reinvigorate a retailer that just posted another plunge in sales.

Nicholson, 49, will report directly to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mickey Drexler, the New York-based company said Thursday in a statement. The move is effective Jan. 11. Joan Durkin, who had served as interim CFO, will return to her role as chief accounting officer.

The appointment shows J. Crew is working to correct some operational missteps that have hurt sales and contributed to losses. The retailer has suffered from putting the wrong styles in stores, and the fit and prices of its apparel hasn’t appealed to shoppers. Compounding those mistakes, foot traffic at malls has been steadily declining. That’s forced J. Crew to increase discounts to compete and clear out excess products. Same-stores sales at the company have slipped in six out of the last seven quarters.

Separately, J. Crew posted a third-quarter loss of $757.9 million, compared with a loss of $607.8 million a year earlier. Same-store sales -- a measure of locations open at least a year that includes online orders -- fell 11 percent in the period. They dropped even more, 12 percent, at the company’s namesake brand. Total revenue declined 6 percent to $619.4 million.

Ann Executive

Nicholson served as executive vice president, COO, CFO and treasurer at Ann Taylor owner Ann Inc. from December 2012 until it was acquired by Ascena Retail Group Inc. in August. He also has worked for Limited Brands Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Altria Group Inc.

The company’s slump marks a swift decline from a couple years ago. J. Crew got a boost in 2013 from First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters wearing the brand at the inauguration, and the retailer was interviewing banks as it considered an initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter. The IPO never happened, and Drexler addressed the company’s problems on a conference call earlier this year: “We just made mistakes.”

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