Morning Brew - ☕️ By any jeans necessary

How Liz Hershfield is pioneering sustainability at Madewell and J.Crew.
Morning Brew May 02, 2022

Retail Brew


Happy Monday! Looking forward to seeing everyone tonight at the Met Gala, where the theme is “Gilded Glamour.” Can’t decide: Should we add a belt to this?

In today’s edition:

—Andrew Adam Newman, Katishi Maake, Glenda Toma


Reduce. Reuse. Recap.

Retail Brew's Andrew Adam Newman and J.Crew's Liz Hershfield at The Checkout Photo: Elena Olivo

The way it usually works is that we, swathed in athleisure and WFH, email this newsletter, which you, also swathed in athleisure and WFH, open and (we like to think) read. But last week was different. We all reacquainted ourselves with buttons and these straps for holding up pants we found in the back of the closet that—if memory serves—are called “belts,” and converged in Manhattan’s Financial District.

It was Retail Brew’s first non-virtual The Checkout Forum, and we talked to Liz Hershfield, SVP and head of sustainability at J.Crew Group and SVP of sourcing at Madewell.

  • Along with Madewell’s popular denim-recycling program, which accepts used jeans from any brand and gives shoppers $20 off a new pair in return, Hershfield has overseen Madewell’s resale platform, Madewell Forever, which launched in 2021, among other sustainability initiatives at the retailer.

Check out the entire conversation with Hershfield here—which included a gasp from the audience when she revealed just how many pairs of jeans she owns. And keep reading for an excerpt (that’s been lightly edited and condensed for clarity):

So when you were little, playing with your Fisher-Price cash register and thinking about the career you’d have in business, was this a thing: “head of sustainability”?

Nope, did not exist.

Can you talk a little bit about the evolution of this as a title and a practice and how you came to it?

Outside of some real leaders in the industry, it was in the past 10 years that it’s really become a thing. I have been in the retail and fashion industry for my entire career—over 27 years, which will age myself. And about seven years ago, I started getting immersed in it and just really learning and understanding what the impact was that we were having as we’re producing clothes and just became really passionate about doing that in a responsible way.

In the role that you’re in now, what are the biggest benchmarks you have for both Madewell and J.Crew?

We actually have really similar goals. We have fiber goals—100% of our key fibers being sustainably sourced by 2025—well on our way for both of the brands there. We also have a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. We also have a goal around ridding our supply chain of virgin plastics—we’re actually transitioning to recycled poly bags starting in 2023, which we’re really excited about. And then the other benchmark, which is so special and really sets us apart, is fair-trade. Because sustainability is about the environment, but it’s about people also.

You launched the resale platform for Madewell last year. Is there concern that Madewell could be cannibalizing sales of new items by having competing used products that are so much cheaper?

It comes up a lot, but we haven’t seen that. And the data for those that are in [resale] and have been in it for some time doesn’t show that either. It’s actually a great way to bring newer young customers into the brand who maybe like to thrift or who can’t afford or don’t want to spend the money. It’s an entryway to the brand, and then they might go and buy something from our regular Madewell storefront, so I don’t think it cannibalizes.

Click here to check out more of our Q&A with Liz.AAN



Changing places

Home Depot storefront Sundry Photography/Getty Images

A lot of retail execs decided to switch things up in April—here’s a short list of some of the most notable:

  • After just eight months on the job, Red Lobster CEO Kelli Valade abruptly exited her position with little explanation.
  • John Miller, the CEO of Denny’s, will retire at the end of 2022 after 11 years on the job.
  • A new CEO, Chris Hall, has popped over to Poppi, the trendy prebiotic-soda brand.
  • Home Depot built a new role: executive VP of customer experience. Matt Carey nabbed the job after serving as the home-improvement retailer’s EVP and CIO.
  • Walmart swiped John Rainey from PayPal to replace Brett Riggs as its CFO, leading to speculation that the retail giant will lean more into financial services.
  • Grove Collaborative also made a CFO hire—Unilever exec Sergio Cervantes, who headed up Murad Skincare—ahead of its plans to go public.

If the shoe fits…And Scott Schaefer, who had been serving as the interim CEO of Zappos since December, dropped the “interim” from his title. The retailer also hired its first CMO ever this month: former Amazon executive Ginny McCormick.—KM



Unlock loyalty and create customers for life


With every purchase, your customers become more and more likely to shop with you again. Cool stat alert: Compared with first-time buyers, customers who buy something from your biz 6+ times are actually 170% more likely to keep shopping with you. Talk about brand love.

So, what kind of magic happens between the first and sixth purchase? What keeps customers coming back again and again? And, maybe most importantly, how do you keep this marvelous momentum going?

All good Q’s. Get the answers in The Retail Marketer’s Guide to Loyalty. Bluecore’s pivotal guide covers three key things you need to work on with your shoppers to unlock their highly coveted loyalty.

Because whether it’s their sixth purchase or their 60th, there’s nothin’ sweeter than a repeat customer.

Get the guide here.


Magnolia makeover

imagery of Magnolia Bakery's rebrand Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery, one of the most well-known bakeries in New York City, is getting a new look—actually, its first rebrand since 2007. CMO Eddie Revis dished on the details to Marketing Brew’s Katie Hicks.

“The perspective I keep giving my team is like, that’s before the iPhone, so try to comprehend how long ago that was in the world of branding and identity and [visual] ID,” he told Katie.

  • In fact, the redesign wasn’t even on the table before Revis joined a year ago; rather, he said the company was interested in what it could do to ensure success for the next 25 years. “Unfortunately, the identity and the brand guidelines and the visual identity that we had in place was not going to be a tool to help us get there faster.”

Freshening up: Brick-and-mortar stores will be getting a refresh to match the brand’s new image, which is rolling out everywhere over the next 12–18 months. According to Revis, there will be functional changes like equipment or floor-plan updates, as well as cosmetic updates.

One thing he’s learned through this process is that it’s not so easy to renovate when stores are in some of New York’s landmark buildings. “Bleecker is a landmark building, Columbus is a landmark building,” he said. “And so it takes a little bit more time to create impact there from a signage perspective.”

Read the full story on Marketing Brew.—GT


  • G-III Apparel Group will be the sole owner of the Karl Lagerfeld brand after agreeing to buy out the remaining part of the biz for $210 million.
  • Amazon has ended its paid sick-leave policy for frontline workers in the US who test positive for Covid.
  • Subway revealed in public filings that it closed 1,000+ more US locations last year than it opened.
  • BJ’s Wholesale debuted a new smaller-format store, BJ’s Market, which is about half the size of its typical locations—the first is in a fittingly small state, Rhode Island.


Insider Intelligence

Consumers are likely to spend more than ever in 2022. Insider Intelligence’s team of analysts share 3 of the biggest trends in the retail industry every commerce professional should know. Receive a complimentary copy of this report directly to your inbox.


Today’s top retail reads.

Standstill: Chinese brands battle production and shipment delays as Covid restrictions within the country halt manufacturing and shutter stores. (Vogue Business)

Get the ball rolling: Since their debut in 1985, Ikea’s meatballs have become a sensation—and added an instant lift to the retailer’s once-struggling in-store cafeteria. (CNN)

Shifting gears: Instacart’s reality check, as its explosive, pandemic-driven growth slows. (The New York Times)

Usher in a new era of work: Leave behind the disjointed apps, vague tasks, and complicated processes—and say hello to a better way to work. It’s all here in Asana’s U.S. Anatomy of Work Report 2022.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.


At the mall, it’s where band tees are the only tees. In Retail Brew, it’s where we invite readers to weigh in on a trending retail topic.

New Jersey’s carryout-bag ban takes effect on Wednesday, after being signed into law in November 2020. It prohibits Garden State retailers from offering shoppers single-use plastic bags and grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet from distributing paper bags.

  • The addition of paper bags makes the ban the strictest in the nation compared to the single-use plastic bag bans in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

You tell us: Do you hope more states implement single-use bag bans that include paper? Cast your vote here.

Circling back: Last week, after Amazon debuted “Buy with Prime,” we asked how likely you are to buy from a retailer with the feature. More than half (58.8%) said they’re much more likely, while 18.3% said it won’t change their thinking. Almost 23% said maybe…if they noticed the prompt.


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Written by Andrew Adam Newman, Katishi Maake, and Glenda Toma

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