Francesca’s taps industry veteran as CEO

Marianne Wilson
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Francesca’s Holdings Corp. has ended its search for a permanent chief executive.

The Houston-based accessories and apparel retailer appointed Andrew Clarke as president, CEO and a member of the board, effective March 9. Clarke will replace Michael Prendergast who was named interim CEO in February 2019 on the heels of the abrupt departure of Steve Lawrence to pursue “other opportunities.” (Lawrence was subsequently named executive VP and chief merchandising officer of Academy Sports + Outdoors.)

Clarke, who brings 25 years of specialty retail experience to Francesca’s, most recently served as president of Loft, which is owned by Ascena Retail Group.  Prior to that, he was executive VP, chief merchandising officer at Justice, also owned by Ascena Retail Group.

Previously, Clarke held various merchandising leadership positions at Kmart, Pimkie, a $1 billion women’s fashion brand owned by French retail conglomerate, Mulliez, Marks & Spencer, and New Look Retailers, a $3 billion fast fashion apparel retailer in based in Europe.

“After a thoughtful and extensive search, we are delighted to be welcoming Andrew to lead Francesca’s into the next phase of our turnaround,” said Rich Emmett, chairman, Francesca’s. “We believe Andrew’s proven track record in specialty retail, including successful transformation initiatives, combined with his experience across merchandising, sourcing, planning & allocation, and consumer insights, make him an excellent choice to lead the Francesca’s Brand.”

In early 2019, Francesca’s, which has struggled amid online competition and fast fashion upstarts, announced it was undertaking a strategic review, whose options included a possible sale. But in August, the company announced that it had completed the review and believed the interest of its shareholders were best served “at this time” by focusing on the execution of its turnaround plan.

For its third quarter, ended Nov.2, Francesca’s reported net sales of $95.5 million, basically flat with the year-ago period, with a 1% increase in same-store sales. 

“We were pleased with our third quarter results which reflect our progress in the execution of our turnaround plan,” Prendergast said in the company’s earnings release. “The strides we have made in building a foundation to execute a fast-fashion model through a flatter and more nimble organization led to an inflection point in our comparable sales. We believe that the high single-digit growth in conversion rate is a clear illustration that our merchandising strategy is resonating with our guests.”

As of February 17, 2020, Francesca's operated approximately 711 stores nationwide.