Hello-Hello and welcome to a new week here at the Prepatorium, we appreciate you stopping in for a visit.
We begin today with an update on J. Crew, a brand we haven’t spent much time chatting about recently. Canada’s Globe and Mail took a look at the company in advance of its first Canadian store opening. J. Crew Primping for its Canadian Debut examines some of the retailer’s recent business decisions, this initial portion references CEO Mickey Drexler.
Customers were complaining that his stores no longer carried the “cafe Capri” women’s cropped pants. The shelves were stocked with too many ruffled tops and mini-skirts, and too few classics such as Italian cashmere sweaters, ballet flats and knee-length pencil skirts.
Mr. Drexler felt the pain. The missteps caused J. Crew Group Inc. to stumble financially. Today….he feels the pressure to once again generate the fashion hits for which he is famous.”
We selected a few examples relative to what the story discusses, beginning with Crew’s Schoolboy Madras Blazer, an item more in keeping with what customers would consider the brand’s heritage. Although the shrunken cut may fit too snugly, at least the garment harkens back to the brand’s ‘preppy roots.’ On the other hand, while a pencil skirt is always in style, efforts to ‘update’ the look don’t work in the ‘Pleated Pencil Skirt‘ seen lower right, the detail at the hip is unlikely to flatter anyone bigger than a Size 2. (As a sometimes Size 4 we figure we’re allowed to grip about such things.)
Back to the Globe & Mail’s story:
J. Crew’s recent fashion errors underline Mr. Drexler’s strengths and challenges. He knew quickly last summer that some of the new younger styles weren’t working, and that the stores were under-stocked on classics.
More pieces probably unpopular with “old style” core customers include things like an Heirloom Lace Vest originally priced at $295, and a $150 Sequin Sweatshirt (now $99), garments that are simply not going to work for many.
More from the story:
We skewed a little younger than we should have – a little more trendy,” Mr. Drexler….said in an interview…“We ran out of a lot of our best-sellers. When you don’t have enough of the best, you skew too young – you have a tough time. It happened. Right now it’s kind of fixed.”
We thought the company did a decent job maintaining a core of perfectly acceptable pieces, much like the Cotton Dress shown below.
To be fair, we never encountered any difficulty finding basic cashmere pieces, like the sweater below.
But then we didn’t look very often, at least not in the last several years. Once a core customer is turned off by a brand’s offerings they are not as likely to pay casual visits to the retailer, either in person or online. There are too many other choices available in the marketplace, the retailing landscape too crowded.
One of the more interesting things about the story is the way Mr. Drexler is referenced throughout the piece, here is one example essentially saying the company is dependent upon his talents:
“Drexler is human and obviously made some mistakes last year,” said Mark Cohen, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York and a former CEO of Sears Canada. “The good news about a one-man band is that, when in tune, the melody is awfully sweet. But when it’s off-key, the music is awful.
There is no reference to J. Crew’s President and Creative Director, Jenna Lyons. However, it is possible the appeal she holds for many of the firm’s customers in the US won’t carry across the border until people are more familiar with J. Crew’s offerings.
In efforts to better engage customers the company has embraced social media, growing the content on its website in addition to using Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. For example, as in previous seasons, the fall lookbook is now available online.
Here are three looks from the Fall 2011 line.
We do hope J. Crew is able to right the ship, for years the company did *many* things very well. More from this fall’s line.
What do you think, is the company getting back to styles you are more comfortable with?
We leave you with a bright and fun image, actually a fundraiser for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
The limited-edition Lilly Pulitzer scarf is a fundraiser for the Aquarium, available now at the Aquarium’s gift shop. Here is a better look at the detail in the pattern.
For an *outstanding* post on the topic, visit Let The Tide Pull Your Dreams Ashore.
Until next time, g’bye!