By DAVID MOIN
NEW YORK — J. McLaughlin has named Mary Ellen Coyne chief executive officer, signaling the company’s desire to accelerate growth across all channels.
Coyne, a former Ralph Lauren executive, will be responsible for J. McLaughlin’s overall strategy including its operations, merchandising, product development, marketing, brand development, retail and e-commerce growth. She reports to the J. McLaughlin board and succeeds Steve Siegler, who left about six months ago. Kevin McLaughlin, cofounder of the brand, continues as chief creative officer overseeing product design and will report to Coyne.
“I have been following the J. McLaughlin brand for years. The combination of timeless American sportswear with an incredible store real estate strategy will remain consistent,” said Coyne on Monday, when her appointment was disclosed.
In the days ahead, Coyne will be formulating both short- and long-term plans for the company, though she outlined several initiatives during an interview, among them continuing to roll out 10 to 20 stores a year, ramping up the catalogue operation; sustaining double-digit growth in e-commerce, and expanding the assortment with new products and new categories. Coyne said it was too soon to specify merchandise additions, though accessories and jewelry would be logical possibilities.
There are 109 J. McLaughlin stores, with 15 opened last year, and between 15 and 20 seen opening this year. The chain is concentrated along the Eastern seaboard, and in Florida, California, Texas and the Midwest. Coyne said she sees significant opportunities in new and existing markets, and singled out Texas, California and the Midwest as most fertile for growth.
The catalogue ramp up, she said, entails increasing the circulation and page count, which will be noticed in the upcoming fall and holiday catalogues.
Coyne left Ralph Lauren on June 24 after spending 19 years at the brand. She was most recently chief merchandising officer of the Polo women’s and children’s divisions. “I chose to leave when the company was reorganizing,” she told WWD.
The Ralph Lauren company has recently undergone sweeping management changes as part of a turnaround strategy. Prior to Ralph Lauren, Coyne held merchandising positions at Victoria’s Secret, Gap Inc. and Ann Taylor. She began her career in the Macy’s training program.
Despite the tough environment for selling apparel, particularly better and high-priced labels, Coyne said she sees J. McLaughlin as very relevant. “There is always a place for timeless American sportswear,” she said. “J. McLaughlin has an incredible loyal following. The evolution of this brand and the potential we have as we move forward is significant.”
J. McLaughlin was founded in 1977 by Kevin McLaughlin and his brother Jay McLaughlin, who is no longer with the company. Based in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, J. McLaughlin is a lifestyle brand rooted in American tradition and classics It has a country club appeal which the McLaughlins have characterized as “edgy prep.” The stores are small in size and quaint in character, and seem to be most popular in resort locations. The company designs its own apparel and accessories for women and men, and manufactures much of it at its Brooklyn facility.
In November 2015, Brentwood Associates, a consumer-focused private equity investment firm with more than $1.4 billion of capital under management, acquired a majority stake in J. McLaughlin. At the time, Steve Moore, a partner at Brentwood, said the company could operate between 250 and 300 stores in the U.S., more than doubling the number of stores operating. He also said the company has the potential to grow overseas and one day go public. Brentwood’s portfolio includes Soft Surroundings, Sundance and Boston Proper.
“Mary Ellen is a proven merchant and also has extensive experience across various operating functions which makes her an ideal leader for the brand,” said Roger Goddu, a partner at Brentwood & Associates.
“Mary Ellen is a natural fit. In many ways she personifies the J. McLaughlin brand and embodies our core customer and values,” said Kevin McLaughlin.