Today’s Apparel CEO Are Made From Technology and Logistics, Not Fashion

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Mickey Drexler had an eye for retail management, making him anything but ordinary. Rightfully so, he earned the title “merchant prince” after his keen instincts helps rescue Gap Inc. in the 1990s in San Francisco when the now famous chain was having difficulty finding relevance. In recent news, Drexler decided to step down as CEO from J.Crew, among other big names in fashion, such as Ron Johnson from J.C. Penney, Terry Lundgren from Macy’s, Sharen Jester Turney from Victoria’s Secret, Katheryn Bufano from Bon-Ton Stores, and Linda Heasley from Lane Bryant who all resigned this year.

While one can be tempted to say that Drexler lost his fashion touch or that people are no longer interested in J.Crew clothing, the truth is that the industry is rapidly changing. The populism found in various aspects of life has drifted into the fashion industry. In the past, fashion trends were drawn from big-name merchants. However, in today’s world, millennial shoppers look to the unpredictable trendsetters on social media. Chicago retail consultant Brian Kelly said, “Drexler was the guy that everyone thought had the magic touch. But retailers today should be using data…rather than attending last year’s fashion show.” It is believed that the next era of retail giants will be experts on data and supply chains rather than fashion.

Known more for their logistics process instead of fashion, Walmart announced Friday that they will buy online men’s retailer Bonobos for $310 million. Mark Lovas, a former top executive at Bonobos and now CEO of Trumaker in San Francisco (another online men’s clothing shop), said “There’s more to retail right now” than just making nice clothes. “Apparel retailers must craft business models that deliver merchandise to customers and remove unsold clothing from inventory in the quickest most cost-efficient way possible,” he added. These skill sets are different than what merchandisers and marketers have grown accustom to in the past.

In addition, customers have sought out department stores to find the latest looks, such as Bloomingdale’s, Marshall’s, etc. However, the world of merchant giants has been ruffled and the Internet has given shoppers access to a wide range of information—prices, styles, opinions—beyond catalogs, magazines, or newspapers. Ash Fontana, a managing director with Zetta Venture Partners in San Francisco, said, “Retail chains require a lot of labor. Reducing labor costs requires using artificial intelligence systems and data analysis.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, only time will tell what the outcome of this evolving industry will be, but one thing remains clear: Clothes may make the man, but they no longer make the CEO.

A coffee depended life-form who enjoys thriller novels, creative writing, and wearing heels to feel taller. Shy to acquaintances, presumably obnoxious to friends. Watched the Harry Potter saga more times than I should admit, but then I remember: who cares? Thoroughly enjoy getting dressed up, but love my fuzzy sweatpants. I like to think my life is interesting.

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