10 Things You Didn’t Know about Libby Wadle

Libby Wadle

Libby Wadle is someone whose name has seen much mention in business news in recent times. This is because she has been named the new CEO of J.Crew Group, which is on top of her responsibilities as the CEO of Madewell. As such, it will be interesting to see how Wadle’s leadership influences the course of J.Crew Group in the times to come.

1. Went to Boston College

Education-wise, Wadle went to Boston College. Said school is counted among the Research I universities. However, Boston College is still called Boston College to honor its roots as a small liberal arts college. For those who are curious, Wadle’s studies focused on English.

2. Started Out in Merchandising

Background-wise, Wadle started out in merchandising. In the broadest sense, merchandising encompasses everything that contributes to the sale of products to consumers. However, merchandising tends to mean the promotion of products and services that are available for sale, which is still wide-ranging in nature but not so much so that it loses meaning. In any case, Wadler started out in The Gap’s merchandising training program before proceeding to work her way up its corporate ladder.

3. Big Fan of Mickey Drexler

In this, Wadle was motivated to a considerable extent by the chance to work for Mickey Drexler. For those who are curious, Drexler is a very successful businessman who has been both the CEO of The Gap and the CEO of J.Crew Group. In particular, it is worth mentioning that he was the one who brought about The Gap’s rise from a $400 million business to a $14 billion business in the 1990s. Unfortunately, a sales slump resulted in Drexler being fired by the founding Fisher family in 2002, though he was vindicated to an extent when sales rebounded just one month after his departure from the corporation.

4. Went to J.Crew Group Because of Mickey Drexler

Wadle left The Gap following Drexler’s departure. As a result, she winded up at Coach, where she ran its women’s merchandising group. However, it wasn’t too long before Drexler asked Wadle to run J.Crew’s factory outlets. She wasn’t too thrilled by the thought of running factory outlets, but she went over to J.Crew anyways because she still wanted to work for Drexler. Considering how Wadle’s career has turned out, it seems reasonable to say that her choice has worked out well for her.

5. Sees Merchandising As an Art Rather than a Science

Some say that business is a mix of art and science, which makes sense because it is so multi-disciplinary in nature. However, there are plenty of people who would like to turn the field of business into a science, not least because the sciences produce much more reliable results than the arts. When it comes to merchandising, Wadle isn’t one of them. Instead, she is very much someone who sees it as an art rather than a science.

6. Sees Merchandising and Design As Two Parts of a Whole

On a related note, Wadle sees merchandising and design as two integral parts of a whole, so much so that she has outright called merchandising the yin to design’s yang. Having said that, this doesn’t mean that she thinks that the two should work together with no friction whatsoever. As far as Wadle is concerned, something that smooth isn’t necessarily a good thing. There needs to be a “healthy tension” between the two sides to make for a productive conversation of sorts.

7. Believes that Ego Needs to Be Controlled

Wadle has also stressed the need for collaboration in a creative process rather than let personal ego run wild. To be exact, she said that it isn’t about coming up with an idea before pushing it to the very end, which is the kind of thing that can cause such processes to come to a screeching halt.

8. Liked to Hold What She Calls Coffee Talks

As the CEO of Madewell, Wadle liked to hold what she called “coffee talks.” Essentially, these were meetings with 15 to 20 store directors meant to get feedback from said individuals, thus enabling her to get a good idea of what they were concerned about. Something that in turn, provided her with insight on what she should be concerned about. Apparently, Wadle made a trip to a Madewell store once a month to make sure that it was running smoothly.

9. Presented with Challenging Circumstances

The present isn’t what most people would consider to be an encouraging environment for retailers. For starters, brick-and-mortar retailers have been struggling for years and years, not least because the rise of online shopping has created formidable competition for a wide range of them specializing in a wide range of products. Something that has continued into the present time. On top of this, the COVID-19 crisis has hit them even harder by convincing most people to spend more time staying at home rather than venturing out. In fact, it should be mentioned that the J.Crew Group is one of the retailers that have declared bankruptcy because of it, though it has come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy as of September of 2020.

10. Has Named Three Factors for Success in Current Environment

Wadle has named three factors for success in the current environment. First, she believes that a brand needs to have a strong sense of purpose, which presumably serves as a unifying factor for every single one of its components. Second, she believes that a retailer needs to have a deep connection with its customers, not least because retailers that lose touch with their customer bases tend to have a very challenging time selling anything to them. Third, she believes that a retailer needs to be set up so that agility, creativity, and innovation are rewarded, thus making it that much more capable of adapting to changing circumstances.


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