Why J.Crew is Faltering, and How It Can Recover
Mar 24, 2015
Several readers sent me The Washington Post article, “Sorry, J.Crew. Female shoppers just aren’t that into you.” The article discusses J.Crews continuing downward spiral. Apparently, sales fell during the busy holiday season. The article identifies several problems with the brand, including this quote:
And yet the biggest problem of all, Drexler said, was one of J. Crew’s own making: It filled its stores with clothes that women really just weren’t into.
“We’ve made some mistakes,” Drexler said, including “missteps in our iconic classics.”
My quarrel with J.Crew has been going on for at least three years. From 2008-2010, nearly every post on this blog featured a J.Crew item. The store was my go-to, my staple, there were whole weeks where I didn’t wear a single item of clothing that wasn’t J.Crew. So what happened?
First, a catastrophic decline in quality. Garments would rip or fray on the first wear, or during the first wash. Hems fell out after a week or a month.
Fabrics that once felt luxurious–Super 120s wools, cashmeres, silks–were suddenly rough or artificial. T-shirts, sweaters, and blouses were made from such cheap fabric that they were practically translucent. The sleeve seams of most of my J.Crew blouses are frayed because the thread literally tears the cheap fabric.
Second, just as quality was plunging, prices were rising. The J.Crew Collection features laughably priced garments that cost thousands while the rest of the site is constantly on sale. Like so many mid-price retailers, the store is making clothes that earn a profit even when discounted 40-percent. So you’re not getting a blouse that’s $98 quality, you’re getting a blouse made with $60 quality.
Finally, J.Crew is like the pretty, unpopular girl who ditched her old friends for the cool kids table and is struggling to stay there. Working women, prepsters, Basic Bettys, we were the J.Crew market base. We wanted good quality staples at a fair price with the occasional bit of flair.
Then one day, Jenna Lyons shows up and our favorite brand is in Vogue, InStyle, etc.. But after a few years, the shine is wearing off. The brand is losing it’s foundation customer base, and the fashionistas it so desperately courted are moving on to the next hot thing. So what does J.Crew have to do to get us back?
Brands like Cuyana, Everlane, and the like are thriving by producing quality pieces that justify their mid-price. J.Crew needs to ditch the sale-priced, mass-market model and go back to the days of quality pieces. If I can see and feel the quality in a piece, and I’m confident it will last, I don’t need it to be 40-percent-off final sale to take the plunge.
Finally, they need to remember who their audience is. Working women need blouse and dresses with sleeves, and waistlines that aren’t more suited to a 14-year-old girl. We need shirts that aren’t sheer. We want blazers and cardigans that can last for multiple seasons. And we need a size guide based on fact, not fiction. If the average waist on a size 4 dress is 28.5″ instead of 27″ (based on the unscientific study in my own closet), just say so.
So ladies, what do you think J.Crew needs to do to find its groove again?