Talbots & J. Crew Chase Core Customers

Hello-Hello, we hope you are enjoying a splendid week.

Today we share updates on two brands readers know; we begin with an update on the situation at Talbots.  You may recall hearing that the company has been struggling for years, with wild swings in its merchandise mix and a host of other challenges.  A brief refresher from Boston.com:

Talbots foundered for five years under the leadership of Trudy F. Sullivan, who strayed from the company’s classic styles in an effort to lure younger, more fashionable consumers.

That strategy backfired and alienated core customers — those 55 and older. The merchant, which still operates about 516 stores, has shuttered its men’s and children’s divisions and slashed expenses as a way to stem losses.

Yesterday the company announced a new management team; the incoming CEO, Michael Archbold, is the former president of Vitamin Shoppe, he has also worked at Saks. It seems Mr. Archbold hopes to return, at least in part, to the brand’s heritage. Women’s Wear Daily quoted from a statement by the new CEO in its story about the changes:

““By restoring the company’s focus on Talbots’ classic styling, we will be able to reconnect with the company’s historical customer base.

Presumably that means we will see less of this sort of thing….

Talbots September 2011

And possibly more things like these, pieces from the Fall 2012 collection.


Trade publication Women’s Wear Daily shared more insight from a source in its its story:

This source also said Kaluzny emphasized that the “collective focus will be on financial discipline, protecting the integrity of the Talbots brand and, most importantly, on our customers….”

While a few ghastly reminders remain of the company’s loss of direction (like this Drape-Wrap Top, now $11.99), the majority of pieces seem to be closer to the brand’s original aesthetic.


The harsh reality remains that even if Talbots can bring back its core customers, they still need to appeal to some portion of the under-55 crowd without completely turning off the older buyers.  Hopefully the new management team will be able to help bring the retailer back to a healthier position. (Psst, a shopping note: if you can find something you like, there appear to be some amazing bargains online and in-store.)

It looks like Talbots isn’t the only retailer trying to get more in touch with its customer base, Tuesday’s Times carried a story titled “J. Crew Wants to Reconnect with its Base“.

J. CREW, the popular purveyor of clothing classics, is rolling out a broad new advertising campaign aimed at galvanizing its customers — some of whom call themselves “jcrewaholics” — and also making them smile.

Elizabeth Olson’s story features images from the company’s new advertising campaign:

J. Crew via the New York Times

Back to the article in the Times:

The campaign ads use the line, “We know you are out there,” to appeal to its aficionados along with close-ups of fashion-forward artists, editors and others who, J. Crew says, wear its clothing not only in the ads but also in their daily lives.

The campaign will span major print outlets as well as digital and social media, and will be the first time the company, officially known as the J. Crew Group Inc., has embarked on such a wide multimedia marketing initiative.

The story points out that previously Crew has used very limited advertising, relying more on word of mouth and things like its catalog, officially called the ‘Style Guide’.  (Below, August’s catalog.)

J. Crew August Style Guide

The story quotes chief marketing officer Diego Scotti:

“We are in a moment when we need to tell our story louder,” explained Mr. Scotti. “We are on a mission to elevate our product and customer demand. We have not done much advertising in the past, other than niche magazines.”

The company’s stepped-up effort will expand its presence in publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Fast Company and the Sunday New York Times Magazine as well as in social media and online. There are no television commercials.

Another two-page spread from the August catalog.

J. Crew August Catalog

Hmmmm. I know a number of our treasured readers have ‘broken up’ with J. Crew, disenchanted with the retailer’s turn to higher fashion and ‘boho prep’ (an oxymoron IMO) styles. It would be grand to hear some thoughts from those who have left one or both brands – are you ready to forgive and forget?


Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle

20 responses to “Talbots & J. Crew Chase Core Customers

  1. Anonymous

    I never left J.Crew…but I wear their red shorts with a jean shirt and Jack Rogers, not with a neon pink tank with leather.accents and metallic motorcycle booties 🙂

  2. I love JCrew but honestly its just gotten too expensive and frufru. They need to get back to their basics with a twist instead of trying to go all high fashion. Us ‘normal’ people can’t afford anything unless its on sale!

  3. Well I am glad to see Talbots returning to what made them Talbots in the first place…you know the saying stick to what you do well, I really beieve that.
    Now J Crew was a store I used to frequent but I definitely shop there less for many reasons, but yes they have changed and tried to me, at least to be something they are not, when I want high fashion I will go to a Prada or Ralph Lauren or something along that line, when i want gingham shirts, soft t shirts and fun capris..I wanted to go to J Crew. I saw the change happen and I cannot say I was that delighted….apparently I was not alone, hope they get back to what they used to do and do well I might add. You just cannot be all things to all people…pure and simple!

  4. Happy to hear the news on Talbots change in direction. After they turned away from classic styles to the horrid draping, sequins and cuts that reminded me more of Forever 21 than a “heritage” brand like Talbots, I abandoned them for Brooks Bros. And, the traffic in their DT Mpls location seriously dwindled. As a career gal well under 50, I need clothes that are well made, will last more than one season and present a compentant image. I’m anxious to check out the new collection.

  5. I’m glad that Talbots is going back to a classic look.

  6. BroncoMom

    THANK GOODNESS someone who is able to read the bottom line FINALLY woke up and read the $$$$ news correctly! Forgive and forget? Yes, I can do that.

  7. complicatedfabulous

    Thank goodness, J. Crew! The bedazzled, bedraggled, be-craziness of their latest collections are too much for me. Occasionally I can find a nice wool pant or corduroy skirt on clearance. It’s too much work to try and coordinate a whole outfit from their racks. I am not into garage sale chic nor am I into paying hundreds of dollars for it! I am a little disappointed to hear Talbots has dropped their kids line, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Those clothes served me well during my formative years. The new looks you featured here in their women’s line look promising though…

  8. FYI, My age is well under the target demographic.

    I really liked what Talbots was doing circa 2010, which brought me to the brand, but 2011 summer offerings were not that great. I cannot stand that red ‘cold shoulder’ top.

    I thought the spring 2012 collection was good. The fall 2012 collection is ok, but I am liking the Holiday 2012 collection more. I like Brooks Brothers, but there items are way too plain for me, however I am huge fan of the Black Fleece collection, but based on the BFC’s sizing, I am not someone that BB wants to wear its clothes.

  9. So glad that Talbot’s has wised up and reversed course. They’ll be getting my $$$ once again.

  10. I left J. Crew for a while but have liked their past few seasons. The quality seems to have improved, though I continue to find their pricing confusing (read: occasionally outrageous – $128 for a sailor tee?!). They are provisionally back in the fold with me.

  11. To be fair to Talbots, I think the company was on a good track and then the fell of the rails. Before Trudy came on the scene, the company was losing money, so she tried to mix it up. She really stuffed up last summer.

    I agree that the brand cannot fully cater to the over 55 crowd. I hope to see a classic collection that can stand alongside a “classic with a bit of fun thrown in” collection for the younger set. I find that there are people who want to wear the buy the same things every year in different colors; I am not one of those people. Visual interest (lovely patterns and unique color pairings) is what I look for in clothes. I do like classic/preppy with a twist. Plus, Talbots is the only retailer that really caters to plus-size and PS petites who like classic/preppy.

    The last top you posted is very unflattering, but I would say that most of the blouses and tops for this year are wearable and nice.

  12. If Talbots continues to churn out *quality* merchandise, I’ll forgive and forget. This summer’s pants were horrible and felt like plastic on.

  13. kathleenlisson

    I will always buy quality pieces with a classic cut. Looking forward to future collections from both brands.

  14. kate

    JCrew can have my money again when they stop producing poorly made clothes that are outrageously expensive. Honestly, if I want clothing that will fall apart after 3 washes I will buy it from F21 or Old Navy. No more paying through the nose for items that don’t last.

  15. sharyn

    @Anonymous at 4:00: “I never left J.Crew…but I wear their red shorts with a jean shirt and Jack Rogers, not with a neon pink tank with leather.accents and metallic motorcycle booties.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    And this, from @complicatedfabulous: “The bedazzled, bedraggled, be-craziness of their latest collections are too much for me.”

    I hope J.Crew gets its act together. They could have a lot more of my money.

  16. Dee

    So Glad Talbots is returning to the classic styles there are known for. For me they are the only store (Womens petite) that offer a classic look in my size. I have been unable to find pants that fit for 5 years ,so I hope their pants will return to the former style and fit.

    There is another problem with Talbots for me. Since they closed EVERY store on Long Island, I have to order online. I will not pay shipping on top of their expensive prices. (And return shipping if it does not fit). They need to add free return shipping, like some of their competitors or go back to allowing us to return shipped items to their outleft store. If this happens I will forgive and forget.

    I fail to understand why they closed every store on Long Island. There is more income and wealth here than practically anywhere else in the country. If they can’t make it here, how can they make it anywhere?????

  17. Little Red

    I, too, had switched to Brooks Brothers, but if Talbots really does go back to their classic styles, I’ll be happy to go back.

  18. Two factors at play: Baby Boomer Demographic, and plus size market. It’s not rocket science but these CEOs are getting paid $600K and more, plus benefits.

  19. Scarlett

    Like another poster, Talbot’s lured me into a store in 2010. I loved every collection until the lousy mess that was Fall 2011, because prior to that, it reminded me of Kate Spade’s clothing line. I knew there was a major style change back to matronly once I flipped through the latest catalog and tossed it in the trash. I’m a 29-year-old professional whose local Talbots (now closed) was the only place within a reasonable driving distance where I could buy youthful, professional clothing. That red top was an extreme example of Talbots trying to appeal to a different audience…I wouldn’t wear that, but I wouldn’t wear those ghastly hunter green blazers they are offering this season either. I would look like I was dressing up as my mother…circa 1987.

  20. reine

    i used to buy all jcrew until it became an avalanche of ruffles and sequins, poor quality and tiny sizes. Talbots lured me in with Michael Smaldone’s amazing designs and I shopped there like crazy (i’m 46) buying pieces in several colors. Since he left the collection is geared toward the “core” customer, that is definetly not me: I do not want tweed, more tweedy looking stuff, heavy fabrics and boxy cuts, twenty version of oldish looking cable sweaters, the dress and skirts length are way too long, even the accessories and the shoes are awful now. I have not bought anything there for 6 month or more and from what I see I won’t be buying anything anytime soon. My 76 year old mother only bought a coat last week deeming that everything was dowdy and not Mad Men looking as they would have us believe. Bye bye Talbots!

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