Drexler, Millard S.

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DREXLER, MILLARD S. ("Mickey "; 1944– ), U.S. merchant. Born and raised in New York City, Drexler spent all his professional life as an apparel retailer. He rose from humble beginnings to become chief executive officer of the publicly owned Gap Inc., whose focus on affordable basics made it the biggest specialty clothing store chain in the U.S. and an internationally familiar name. While attending the Bronx High School of Science, Drexler worked in New York City's garment center with his father, a buyer of buttons and textiles for a coat manufacturer. In 1966, he earned a business degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo and two years later received an M.B.A. at Boston University. He entered retailing with posts at Bloomingdale's, Macy's, and Abraham & Straus. In 1980, he was appointed president of Ann Taylor and within three years turned the women's apparel chain into a success. He joined Gap in 1983 as deputy to Donald *Fisher, founder and chairman, was named president of the Gap division, and went about reinventing the company. He hired new designers, strengthened quality control, and invested in store renovation. In 1986, he launched GapKids, an immediate success. He was named president of Gap Inc. in 1987 and ceo in 1995. In his almost two decades at the company, he cemented a reputation as a master merchandiser. When Drexler joined Gap, it had 550 stores filled with clothes that were not selling and $80 million in sales. When he left 19 years later, it had more than 4,000 Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic stores and more than $14 billion in sales. In 1994, when Gap's business was feeling the effects of increased competition from high-end designers as well as mass merchandisers, Drexler launched Old Navy, a discount chain that grew to 282 stores in less than three years. In 1998, Fortune magazine called him "possibly the most influential individual in the world of American fashion," pointing out that he had transformed Gap from a national retail chain into a global brand. A soft economy and tougher competition contributed to a two-year sales slump that began to reverse itself in 2002, the year Drexler left Gap. In January 2003, he became head of the smaller, privately held J. Crew Group, another specialty chain.


Fortune (Aug. 1998).

[Mort Sheinman (2nd ed.)]