Friday, August 27, 2010

J.Crew Outlet Coming Online

A big "thanks!" to RatsOnParade (in this post) who shared the following news from the Daily Finance (click here to read in its entirety). Also, "thanks!" to an Anonymous JCA who confirmed that J.Crew outlet online will arrive sometime between mid-to-late September!

J.Crew to Put Outlet Store Online to Attract Bargain-Hunters
By Hugh Collins
August 27, 2010

J.Crew Group Inc. (JCG) plans to let customers buy its outlet-store clothing online starting next month, making it easier to get its low-cost clothes at a time when consumers are counting every penny.

Clothing companies typically place outlet stores in out-of-the-way malls, forcing customers to drive long distances in search of a bargain. Now, J.Crew is hoping that it can tap this demand for bargains without undermining sales at its main stores.

Customers are "deferring, they're waiting, they're comparison-shopping, and people are a little nervous," CEO Millard Drexler said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Online and outlet sales have both seen strong growth even in a weak economy. J.Crew's profit almost doubled in the quarter ending July 31, hitting $34.9 million, from $18.6 million a year earlier.
I remember a few holiday seasons back (maybe 5 years ago???), J.Crew offered a J.Crew Outlet website. However, it was for a limited time and just items on sale.

It will be great to see all the merchandise available at outlet online. Especially since the outlets may not be easily accessible for some of their shoppers.

Hopefully J.Crew could do something like Gap Inc. does, and combine shipping across the various online stores of theirs (J.Crew, Madewell, J.Crew Outlet).

What are your thoughts about J.Crew Factory coming online? Do you think it is a good move for them? Would you visit the site?

47 comments:

  1. Am I mistaken or didn't they try this two or three years ago? (maybe farther back but I think I remember it). Although I don't really like the idea because I find the outlet goes against the brand with inferior fabrics and sometimes quality.

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  2. This is really interesting. Agree with JenLynn that the clothes offered are definitely cheaper in quality. Don't think I would waste my time ordering outlet stuff online. I generally feel as though I'm better off ordering from j.crew's retail sale section than a full-price (or even sale price) outlet item.

    That said, I would be interested in seeing the outlet collection items, like the lace cami Dinagideon posted about recently. Seems like those are of higher quality.

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  3. Of course, right as I am about 60 days from a B&M outlet opening near me. I can't win. LOL

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  4. I do not think I will be shopping the online outlet unless they stock regular retail items from seasons past. I personally am looking for quality and value. I will pay more for something that will weather the trends and last. I have not been looking to JC for this so much, although I have picked up a few accessories this season. If I am going to pay $350 for a pair of boots, they are going to have a leather sole and not have the zippers and buckles that define them as this season. I think another JCA may have mentioned this, but the August issue of Vogue had a feature on just this, featuring heritage brands. Following up on yesterday's discussion of the Bella, it seems to me like it might be a good time for JCrew to consider bringing back some of their classics and focus more on design and construction.

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  5. Corry: Agree! Wouldn't it be FANTASTIC if J.Crew came out with "J.Crew Heritage" or something along those lines? If that went online, I would be all over it.

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  6. What is the point of this? It seems kind of like Ann Taylor and Loft to me and maybe they are trying to hit two different income demographics? Or maybe they are looking for a different place to sell those ratty tees?

    Personally, I only own one pair of jeans from an outlet. I haven't been impressed with anything else I have seen. I would rather pay a few dollars more for the better fabrics they use on the regular pieces.

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  7. I was wondering why I would come across this address when I searched for items on Google: www.jcrewfactoryoutlet.com
    It takes you to JCrew's website but it looks like they're getting ready.

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  8. Although cheaper in quality, I have found several items that I LOVE that I only found at the Crewlet and others that I liked but didn't want to pay the full price. Like the Schoolboy Blazer- definitely fits my budget at the Crewlet price- they always have mark-downs and my outlet has 20% off coupons too boot. It's been a great supplemental resource for me.

    I'm excited for everyone not within close proximity to one!

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  9. Interesting move, given some of the quality issues the original JC has been facing (don't get me started on the Marquee tote that fell apart after 1 month of wear).

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  10. I agree with a lot of the commenters. It seems like outlets are not what they once were, selling truly out of season, overstocked or slightly flawed products but of the same quality. Nowadays its hard to find real outlets with good prices and products. I would love a chance of an extended and extensive Jcrew sale section, but I'm skeptical that this might be a racket like the others.

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  11. I really hope this works out! I love J.Crew and all of the outlets are far away from me. Thanks for the good news!

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  12. Interesing. I like the outlets for finding retail items I missed. Yes the quaility isn't the same. But I'm not very impressed with what were seeing from the retail side either.

    Nice try, Mickey, but the outlet ticket price is no "bargain". It's frequently $5 or $10 less than retail. The caveat is that IME the outlets run pretty consistent promos - sometimes 40 or 50% - unheard of in the retail stores. That's the only way I shop the outlets. That and the frequency of additional 20 or 30% off clearance.

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  13. Thanks for turning this into a post, Alexis!

    I just don't quite see the value in launching a factory website, when (in my opinion) the crewlet clothes cost just as much, if not more, than the higher quality items from the real store. If they're trying to go after the penny-pinching demographic (as Mickey says), then the outlet darn well better have lower prices than jcrew.com. I think one of the reasons the outlets work out so well is *because* they're usually so far outside of town - it's a destination. If you put all that time and effort to drive all the way out there, you feel like you have to get something (otherwise the trip was a waste), plus there's no way to comparison shop. I swear every time I've been to a crewlet I've been sorely disappointed. Not that they didn't have cute items - even though there's something about them that always seems just a little off, but my main problem with the outlet stores is the prices are high (esp. considering, um, it's an outlet!)

    Does this mean the crewlet online will have the "reasonable" prices and they'll jack up the authentic-j.crew items up even further? I'm curious to see how they handle it.

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  14. there are two outlets relatively close to my house. i like browsing and if i missed a pattern from a previous season, i like the new incarnation of it made for the outlet.

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  15. RATS on Parade-
    Those were my exact thoughts. Many times shoppers that are not aficionada's (of any brand being sold at an outlet) are not as tuned into the appropriate retail price point. They have no idea how crazy low you can grab things of better quality from the online site when there is a percent off sale. In their minds, it is an "outlet" therefore it *should* be a good deal. Or maybe they live somewhere that doesn't even have a J Crew so they aren't tuned into the brand. They are on vacation visiting a state(which tends to be common among outlet shoppers) and have no idea that the prices really are very high for lesser quality. For instance, they still see cute styles (victoria camis) in pretty prints and they certainly aren't *bad* fabrics. Or they often haven't seen the quality of the wool from the original blazer. Or maybe they don't even care because they just love it!:) Then there are those of us that love the outlet for that missed print that they are doing in a style we loved but missed. We are often willing to pay the price they extend to get that coveted piece.

    I am with you wondering how they are going to position the pricing versus the regular site..very curious. Seems it would be a very difficult task to keep tabs on.

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  16. I doubt I'll shop much on the outlet site. I agree that the quality just isn't there. I have the francis cami from jc and what appears to be the same cami but from the outlet. The jc one is definitely better quality: french seams, etc. I think I would want to physically see/feel the clothes at outlet if I were going to buy. This summer I bought a tee shirt at the JC B&M and then found the same one at the outlet for $20 more. It had been marked done to FS at B&M, but still! Ridic.

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  17. that's good news...here's to hoping that shipping is more appropriately priced, too!

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  18. I have only ever been to an outlet once, when we were visiting the Napa Valley. I bought a cotton v-neck sweater that was a beautiful pink color. Unfortunately, it puckered and shrunk in the wash and started to pill with the first wearing. I told myself there will be no more J.Crew outlet shopping. Not impressed.

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  19. I think Sweetsy and Rats identified something important about the "destination" phenomenon that induces shoppers to make outlet purchases.

    I'm still interested, though, based on specific individual items that other JCAs have shared on their blogs. As with everything else, it will be a question of using good judgment.

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  20. also wanted to add that i'm glad to see ol' Mick acknowledging the fact that we've been trained to wait for sales and people are being more careful with their money. it is what it is.

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  21. I'm not a fan of the outlet J. Crew stores. Everything just looks like a bad version that didn't make the cut. I have one or two within driving distance and I never go there. I would sooner buy from Madewell - those stores are actually pretty great inside, wood floors and has an artist's loft feel.

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  22. i agree with sweetsy and RoP. we're 'inside out' on the issue of quality at the Crewlets. i was STOKED to see a Seville paisley print dress at my last Crewlet visit, only to find that it was made of cheaper-quality material and in a silhouette i could tell right away was not made for retail. we all also know when a coveted silk-based print circles back around to become a cotton sateen or lower-quality silk blend knockoff, but as evidenced by the Crewlet stuff flooding eBay these days, others don't seem to care.

    i also find the Crewlet jewelry to be overall cheaper quality than the retail stuff. it feels lighter/flimsier in my hand.

    i will say, though, that i bought a really nice suckered gingham perfect shirt at my first-ever Crewlet visit, and i actually can't see any discernible difference between it and my retail purchases of the same style -- other than the Crewlet ones ran S M L and the store ones were numbered sizes.

    i do remember WAY back when they did have an 'Outlet' portion of the site but IIRC the pickings were always slim and did not include items made especially for the outlets. ...

    i'm witholding judgement until i see how it comes about.

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  23. My first impression was, "wow, how great and unexpected!"

    Giving this another moment's thought, I can't imagine I'll be taking much advantage of the outlet site, especially if they do not end up combining shipping (which I really don't anticipate they will if they haven't yet with Madewell). In years past, I was a huge JC outlet fan - I would plan a big trip to Woodbury Commons on a holiday weekend and make out like a bandit: $30 cotton Jackies, $6 tanks, gorgeous and well made skirts for under $50, etc. However, much like the retail stores' quality has greatly depreciated, the outlet stores' quality AND styles seem to have gone down the toilet. I've stopped my outlet excursions entirely on account of being tired of seeing last season's items poorly redone, often in loud and tasteless color schemes. (Not to mention the fact that, as a size XS/0, I'm all too often sized out at the outlet stores due to limited stock, though I don't anticipate that being as much of a problem shopping online.)

    What I will be interested to see is how the outlet items are priced online, because I was shocked on my last 2 outlet trips to see just how high priced these lower quality items were! Skirts for $79.50 and up? I'd rather jump on the dreaded final sale bandwagon...

    ... which brings me to my last thought: online outlet shopping plus final sale? I foresee a recipe for disaster right there.

    Ok, one more thought. Think they'll use the outlet site as a way of increasing the prices of old, deeply discounted final sale items that didn't sell and hoping customers don't notice? I can't say I'd be surprised.

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  24. I'm actually excited about it. I've recently become obsessed with J Crew clothes and jewelry, so I'm hoping this will give me a chance to acquire some items from the past.

    I will say that last month I went to 2 Crewlets and saw the same merchandise in there as was in the regular B&M stores. The prices at the B&M stores were better.

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  25. I am thrilled to hear this news! I even live close to one (about 45 minutes)but being able to see everything online first will be great! I do miss the "true" outlets that they used have. My best shopping experience ever was when my sister and I drove 3 hours to one and when we walked in we were told that EVERYTHING in the store was 50% off! :o I bought some great things that day! However I just don't keep my clothes for years and years. Maybe that's because I shop too much and must clear out the closet once or twice a year. And I would rather have quanity over quality so I like the outlets where I can usually get more for my money. I like to mix in inexpensive with expensive. Don't get me wrong- I know how to drop some serious cash on things but it's usually shoes and handbags that I am a "snob" on and not so much my clothing.

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  26. I like the outlet mostly for men's stuff for my boyfriend. The men's shirts are a little pricey for me in store for what they are—basic cotton. But I can hit up the outlet and get the same print I was looking for, and even though the base price may only be $5-$10 cheaper, they ALWAYS have some kind of discount going—40% off everything, 30% off men's shirts, etc—that makes it a great deal. Plus, I get the student discount, so that makes even more difference. I end up getting a $60-$70 shirt for $20 or $25. And when you're trying to redirect your boyfriend's style, you're buying a lot of shirts, so a discount makes a huge difference! ;)

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  27. Fawn, I'm so glad you mentioned jewelry which I had forgotten all about! Definitely excited to see what the website will offer in that department, as the outlet stores tend to carry a number of really nice pieces, generally for $39.50 or less before additional markdowns.

    Unrelated, in my earlier post where I mentioned last season's items being poorly redone, I actually meant the corresponding season of the prior year. That was probably clear but I thought I'd clarify.

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  28. Dara, I thought the same as you - crewlet.com final sale! EEEEK!

    Then you'd never be able to unload pieces that didn't work out... even browsing on eBay there are sellers that proclaim that they never sell factory store items. Gotta be careful about that stuff!

    I don't see what sense it makes to have outlets where they're having separate items manufactured for
    them. Where does the stuff go if it doesn't sell? I don't recall ever seeing factory store stuff at TJMaxx or Marshalls. There is definitely a psychological component to the outlet shopping, especially if you have to drive almost an hour to get there. I remember reading an article about it...

    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/ConsumerActionGuide/are-outlet-malls-for-suckers.aspx

    Food for thought!

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  29. i bought some boot cut cords at the outlet in Hershey in nov and they were no different than the reg store at all. I think the outlet is way to target a customer that doesnt shop in your "regular" store for what ever reason (price/location/perception)

    I will check out the website. I am about an hour away from Woodbury but I am the kind of shopper that shops sales and does well that way.

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  30. silver_lining- That's a great article & so true. I liked how they talked to a few stores to find out which ones are recreating line specifically for outlets. Outlets *are* really for suckers. I know I feel stupid if I trek out to one because the deals are not good. It would be great if it were clearance from the stores like Saks Fifth Off, but they're not. I will say that I love the v-neck tees from J'Crewlet. They hold up well & the v is not too low. Other than that, I haven't found many things in the outlet. Generally, I won't pay the price for lesser quality of the taste of something I missed a season ago. Although you know how Crewlade goes, so I reserve the right to change my mind at any moment ;-)

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  31. silver_lining, great article! Thank you for posting it, it ought to be required reading for JCAs.

    An acquaintance of mine has a part-time job at a Crewlet,where she uses her discount to buy clothes for her day job. She tells me that while staff are drilled to be nice and helpful to everyone, they can all tell the difference between "real shoppers" and "label-hunters."

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  32. http://www.nbcnewyork.com/blogs/threadny/THREAD-JCrew-For-Cheap-101656093.html

    Hey look! This blog was mentioned...way2kewl...

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  33. I'm cautiously optimistic, but a lot of that depends on whether the Web store will offer the same kinds of specials that they frequently run in the physical outlets.

    I've picked up some good items at the Crewlet (a $350 Collection sweater for $40, hip-slung jeans that are no longer in the regular JCrew stores for $30, etc.) but I seldom buy anything at the original ticketed price at the outlets.

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  34. I really wish that J.Crew would just focus their time, energy, and $$$ on bringing back superior quality to the retail clothing line, instead of investing it in areas such as the outlets, excessive PR, etc.

    I live near 2 Crewlets and have only visited 3 times total. IMO, the quality is just not worth the price they charge, even with the discounts, so I do not plan to shop the online factory store, either.

    As I said in a post yesterday, I would rather miss out or stalk Ebay for a retail original than to buy a made for the factory copy.

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  35. If their quality wasn't so obviously crappy, I'd be excited.

    The outlets do have good sales on basics like tanks & favorite tanks which are the same quality. I did venture out and buy a Jackie cardigan and it was definitely poor quality. Perhaps it was because it was cotton and totally did not wash well. I was sorely disappointed because the happy yellow became quite muted- like a sad yellow trying to be happy.

    I notice a lot of times they bring back the same prints from yester-years in low quality fabrics- it's too bad, the idea is good, the carry through and delivery is poor and the prices are almost the same.

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  36. I've picked up lots of tees (graphic and the tissue vnecks which are great for layering under sweaters), gorgeous bling-button "forever" cardis, a couple of the silk camis done in missed prints-giraffe etc. and they are very well-made. I agree that some things are nice with a price to match (esp. if you catch them at mark-down time.) But the regular prices are ridic..sometimes it's more than retail stores! I also think I need to see it and feel it and try it on. Final Sale would NO way work for me and the outlet.

    Some of the jewelry such as beads/pearls can feel/look cheap and I find it overly priced for what it is. But I found a coveted earring called the crystal thornbush drop and it is very much like the retail..great quality. In fact, I am selling a second pair of outlet thornbush earrings if anyone's interested=)

    All said, this reminds me of how difficult it would be to shop the outlet online. I would more than likely stick to regular site.

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  37. I'm excited about this as outlet stores are too far away for me now!!!

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  38. I think I'm in the minority here being excited for the online outlet. The closest J Crew to me is a 6 hour drive away, and it's only an oulet at that. But, I still manage to get there once or twice a year, and I always come out with bags full of goodies.

    And to be honest, I don't notice much of a quality difference these days between J Crew's retail and outlet. They are both pretty crappy. And if I can expect a retail store tee to get a hole in it after 2 washes and cashmere to only last one season (if that), how can the outlet stuff be any worse?

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  39. This is nice to hear since I like saving money, although I've been in one of their outlet stores a couple of times and the selection was quite minimal.

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  40. I stopped by the Crewlet yesterday since it was on my way and was a bit disappointed. It was basically the same styles from previous seasons, that were reproduced for Factory Stores, at higher prices than the original on sale. I was kind of hoping to see maybe this years styles but with a slight variation, for less.

    They had the Crewlet versions of the Velvet Eden Blazers, Schoolboy Blazers, and Downtown Field Jacket, all for $120+. If you don't mind stalking, you could have gotten the original for a fraction of the Crewlet price. For example, the original Eden Blazer is on sale for $39.99-$59.99 and has been for the longest time.

    Also, the Crewlet did have some original J.Crew items like the Natalia dip-dyed satin ballet flats, but for $79.99. Right now, they are on JCrew.com for $59.99 plus an extra 20% off.

    On a bright note, I did enjoy looking through the store. There is something about browsing/shopping in a J.Crew or J.Crew outlet. :)

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  41. Alexis- thanks for your "reporting from the field" summary! I was at my Crewlet last evening as well and have to agree with everything you said. I also noted how fun it was. It was chock-full with interesting colors every you looked- I was struck by the marketing, sale signage, and product placement. I went back to pick up the navy Schoolboy Blazer. The fabric seems a little cheap for me, so I'm anxious to compare it to the new version at my B&M. With the 30% Discount, and an additional factory mall discount of 20%, my cost came to just under $100. I remember last year's Schoolboy on sale at $99 and wish I would have picked that up when I had the chance. I LOVE the look of the model on the produce page wearing a t-shirt, blue ruffle shirt, and the Schoolboy over with pushed up sleeves- a much cleaner look than the Boyfriend Blazer. That said, I'm probably just missing "going back to school" ha ha.

    Wow- FFM's commet on wishing J. Crew would just focus on one high quality line really struck a chord with me. Is J. Crew's brand going the way of Tommy Hilfiger? (and Ralph Lauren, for that matter) with with discounted lines that makes me not so crazy about spending $$ on their top line?

    The psychology is so interesting. I also went in to TJMAX last evening to look for a furniture piece. I ended up in the clothing section with a cart full of several pieces and shoes. I was like a kid in a candy store- so many J. Crew look-a-likes and a fraction of the cost. THEN I thought- what am I doing? These items will last one season (or 1.5) and I could have picked up the Thandie Blazer and worn it for the rest of my life. Or could I? No lining and who knows about the craftsmanship longevity?

    Just some things I'm thinking about...

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  42. Alexis- thanks for your "reporting from the field" summary! I was at my Crewlet last evening as well and have to agree with everything you said. I also noted how fun it was. It was chock-full with interesting colors every you looked- I was struck by the marketing, sale signage, and product placement. I went back to pick up the navy Schoolboy Blazer. The fabric seems a little cheap for me, so I'm anxious to compare it to the new version at my B&M. With the 30% Discount, and an additional factory mall discount of 20%, my cost came to just under $100. I remember last year's Schoolboy on sale at $99 and wish I would have picked that up when I had the chance. I LOVE the look of the model on the produce page wearing a t-shirt, blue ruffle shirt, and the Schoolboy over with pushed up sleeves- a much cleaner look than the Boyfriend Blazer. That said, I'm probably just missing "going back to school" ha ha.

    Wow- FFM's commet on wishing J. Crew would just focus on one high quality line really struck a chord with me. Is J. Crew's brand going the way of Tommy Hilfiger? (and Ralph Lauren, for that matter) with with discounted lines that makes me not so crazy about spending $$ on their top line?

    The psychology is so interesting. I also went in to TJMAX last evening to look for a furniture piece. I ended up in the clothing section with a cart full of several pieces and shoes. I was like a kid in a candy store- so many J. Crew look-a-likes and a fraction of the cost. THEN I thought- what am I doing? These items will last one season (or 1.5) and I could have picked up the Thandie Blazer and worn it for the rest of my life. Or could I? No lining and who knows about the craftsmanship longevity?

    Just some things I'm thinking about...

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  43. Alexis- thanks for your "reporting from the field" summary! I was at my Crewlet last evening as well and have to agree with everything you said. I went back to pick up the navy Schoolboy Blazer. The fabric seems a little cheap for me, so I'm anxious to compare it to the new version at my B&M. With the 30% Discount, and an additional factory mall discount of 20%, my cost came to just under $100. I remember last year's Schoolboy on sale at $99 and wish I would have picked that up when I had the chance. I LOVE the look of the model. That said, I'm probably just missing "going back to school" ha ha.

    Wow- FFM's commet on wishing J. Crew would just focus on one high quality line really struck a chord with me. Is J. Crew's brand going the way of Tommy Hilfiger? (and Ralph Lauren, for that matter) with with discounted lines that makes me not so crazy about spending $$ on their top line?

    The psychology is so interesting. I also went in to TJMAX last evening to look for a furniture piece. I ended up in the clothing section with a cart full of several pieces and shoes. I was like a kid in a candy store- so many J. Crew look-a-likes and a fraction of the cost. THEN I thought- what am I doing? These items will last one season (or 1.5) and I could have picked up the Thandie Blazer and worn it for the rest of my life. Or could I? No lining and who knows about the craftsmanship longevity?

    Just some things I'm thinking about...

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  44. So sorry about the triple post and misspellings!

    Technical difficulties and careless exuberance for this topic!

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  45. Will crewcuts be available? <>>

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  46. Betty,

    I haven't heard. I've never seen a J. Crew Factory Store with crewcuts, but that's not to say they won't add the kids stuff in on the online store. I hope so!

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  47. There are a few outlets that have crewcuts but only a few. Would love to see them include kids online *with promos* similar to reg stores

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