In the world of fashion, “fast and cheap” is the mantra of the day, and nobody is learning that lesson the hard way quite like J Crew. Amid slowing sales over the last 10 quarters, the company has cut 250 jobs and parted ways with two major creative forces; Creative Director Jenna Lyons, and Head of Menswear Design Frank Muytjens.
If you ask the CEO what the issue is, he’ll tell you that the brand is a little too snobby for its own good.
Lookin’ down their nose
According to a story from Consumerist reporting on a Wall Street Journal piece, Mickey Drexler said that J. Crew, “gave a perception of being a higher-priced company than we were – in our catalog, online, and in our general presentation,” a move which he now calls a “very big mistake.”
As an occasional J. Crew shopper myself, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that the prices themselves are mostly justified.
From the fabric of a jacket down to the buttons, J. Crew sources quality materials for their clothes, at least on the menswear side of things. However, the online retail space is becoming less and less about the quality and more about the look, thanks to the rise of fast fashion retailers.
Stores like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 aim to churn out new styles and collections multiple times a year, at least once a quarter rather than once a year. They also forego a curated approach in favor of mass coverage in order to supply all the latest trends. As a result, according to that same Consumerist piece, “there are seemingly unlimited options at lower prices,” in a market where garment quality doesn’t mean much.
J. Crew has taken notice and is making course corrections.
The company has always maintained an outlet mall presence through their J. Crew Factory line. In the last two years, they have launched J. Crew Mercantile, a retail experience for their cheaper outlet line that fits into a regular mall environment. The company hopes this will improve their value perception amongst consumers. According to the Consumerist piece, Drexler says “the company will be expanding its supply base to keep up with the Zaras of the industry.”
For the rest of us, it’s important to remember that a product experience and value must translate through the online experience, and that value-based branding will continue to win the day.