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Notes from a Concerned Observer

Julian Tomchin Guest ColumnistJulian Tomchin Guest Columnist
On May 27, Cathy Horyn wrote a piece in The New York Times' "Style Section" titled "Charting the Rise of the King of Retail," a short descriptive of Mickey Drexler, chief executive of J. Crew.
     She wrote, "The fact is, Mr. Drexler is the stuff of retailing. He's a genius of merch."
     What is missing is the description of Drexler as a merchant, something that makes him a very rare creature in today's retail environment where talent is judged by the ability to read a spreadsheet.
     There aren't many that come to mind. Mike Gould at Bloomingdale's, Gordon Segal at Crate and Barrel, but Horyn probably is unaware of him as he doesn't deal in clothes. Off the top of my head, I can't think of many others.
     Drexler and his relationships with the members of the design team, with the rolls of shirting in Italy, (Good Lord, he travels overseas!) with his use of a public address system to reach his employees suggests to me that he wants to be able to reach his employees - a very old-fashioned concept and "the stuff of retailing."
     I've been away for awhile, but I'm in touch with many buyers of and sellers to various retail groups, and what I hear far too often is that the contact magic is missing or gone.
     It is my opinion that Drexler's approach adds another benefit that has been fading far too quickly, which is the interest in the wants and needs of the consumer. Horyn points this out in her comments on the menswear focus and the continuous drive for innovation.
     More power to him and his people. Long may they thrive.

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