Friday, May 27, 2011

J.Crew In The News: Mixing It Up

There is an article over at Real Estate Weekly (click here to read in its entirety) that is an interesting read:
Bling, booze and prayer: how retail is surviving the recession
By Liana Grey
May 23, 2011

Elaine Wynn’s famed resorts here, the Wynn and the Encore, survived the recession. “The luxury market is alive and well,” she told a packed session that kicked off the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Annual Conference on Sunday...

In a ballroom at the Las Vegas Hilton, about 300 women – and the occasional man, like Consolo’s business partner Joe Aquino – sat at tables draped in orange cloth, sipping one of three choices of wine.

It was the ICSC’s second annual Women in Retail Special Interest Group, one of 12 breakaway sessions held on the first day of the conference, in and around the cavernous Las Vegas Convention Center, and four industry leaders swapped advice on how to handle today’s breed of customer.

At the Wynn hotel, out went a Daniel Boulud bistro and in went the Lakeside Grill. “That had a different price point, but still a gay and happy and joyful environment,” Wynn explained. “It’s a matter of being value conscious.”

That’s the new motto of shoppers across sectors. “People are still cautious and they’re working on paying off their debt,” said fellow panelist Terri Simard, vice president of law at Target, which itself cut costs during the recession by developing its own properties. The cost-conscious trend means fewer impulse purchases, whether at Target or a Fifth Avenue boutique.

At a party thrown by a fashion magazine earlier this month, an employee of Graff, the jewelry chain, told Wynn that special, quality stones are in high demand. “People are more interested in intrinsic value,” she said. “They want their bling, but they want to convince themselves it’s an investment.”

Then again, sometimes all shoppers need are shoes and jewelry that won’t max out their credit card. “My bling comes from Target,” joked Holly Cohen, senior vice president of J.Crew, who lives in Miami and travels regularly to New York.

She isn’t the only fashion-forward professional with a Target necklace: the post-recession era has brought the resurgence of what Consolo calls the “cross-shopper.”

When hunting for beauty and fashion basics, Target costumers aren’t quick to cross the aisle for international designer goods, Simard said, but they will mix and match mid-range ones.

People will pair Target with J.Crew with Saks,” she said. “They’re more adventurous.”

J.Crew took note of this trend, Cohen said, and introduced a diverse range of lines in-house, including bridal gowns and the Collection, which she calls “higher-end, but still cheaper.”

The brand is also thriving thanks to celebrity endorsement. Newlywed British princess, Kate Middleton has been spotted in Crew, and the Obama family are regular customers: the First Daughters sported the company’s dresses on inauguration day two years ago, and their father has worn J.Crew ties. When Michele Obama appeared in a J.Crew skirt, Cohen said, “that was huge.” ...

On an upscale level, of course, that means bringing in restaurants to under-served areas. “It not only revitalized neighborhoods, it brought retailers to neighborhoods they’d never even thought of going,”

Consolo explained, pointing to the Flatiron District, which underwent a foodie renaissance that paved the way for a new J.Crew shop to thrive there.

Trendy dinner spots are a risky business, but cosmetics, chocolate, and wine sales are always stable, the ladies agreed. People will pop open champagne to celebrate, and “when times are bad, they drink to feel better,” Consolo said. ...
I definitely see a lot of "cross-shoppers" from the posts of fellow JCAs on the JCA Blog Roll Call. Several JCAs have a knack to style pieces ranging on the retail spectrum, pairing vintage finds, with Target, J.Crew and Louis Vuitton. They do it in such a way that it all looks put together.

What are your thoughts on the article? Do you like to mix J.Crew with higher and lower end pieces? Please share! :)


  1. One thought I had, is that the article is making the point that "high end" is dressing/shopping down, so to cut corners. For Michelle Obama to wear JCrew, that is colloquial. But for JCrew to sell to the First Lady, means JCrew can sell "up." Or create the illusion that their clothes are "high end worthy" and in turn charge more for their product.

    Not buying it. JCrew quality still isn't there for the prices.

  2. Very interesting point, pathos, and well said. The JC of recent years that I know, the one with the rush to markdowns, bipolar service, and expensive disposables ($100 can still buy a lot these days, and I for one would rather hold on to a memory of a nice night out than moan over a prematurely aged garment), is not the JC the folks at the conference seem to be talking about. Sounds like they might be missing the point about appealing to people with money. Sorry not to use a euphemism. People with $$ have choices and are not afraid to make them.

    Oh. BTW, where & when was the Duchess of Cambridge "spotted in J.Crew"? Im betting it'll be "Buy British" from now on.

  3. This article is confusing J.Crew with the British brand Crew. The Duchess wears that brand occasionally, especially to sporting events.

  4. I'm also left wondering when Kate wore J Crew. I think if she had, we'd know about it -- imagine the frenzy! Assuming Rebecca is right about the confusion, how embarrassing for the writer. Get your facts straight!

    I agree w/Fred -- especially since the engagement announcement, Kate's been making an effort to stick to British designers. It's just what they do.

    It kind of bugged me when the Crew exec said she buys her bling at Target. I bet Mickey hit the roof. If I were the boss, I'd be pissed. She should be supporting her own brand! In the context of the discussion they were having, Crew is considered on the lower end and thus affordable, quality discussion aside.

    Not to mention Target has been shamelessly knocking off JC clothing and accessories right and left lately.

  5. It is always interesting to read the retail strategies shared at these conferences. I have no exposure to the retail clothing market other than my own shopping experience and I'm forever curious how the execs plan to woo us fickle customers.

    I spend a fair chunk on clothing, shoes and accessories and less than half of it is J.Crew. I am one who loves to pair their pieces with other brands. Most of what I buy at J.Crew and everywhere for that matter, are fairly classic pieces so it's easy to incorporate several different brands into my daily look. A lot of the J.Crew pieces in my wardrobe were purchased because they were a beautiful color. A gorgeous pink, purple or blue generates an almost Pavlovian response in me. When I scroll through new arrivals I click through the item and look at the colors, it is make or break for me right there.

    Quality has really declined across the board with few exceptions outside of designer goods. It's disappointing but there are huge price pressures on the supply and demand sides and retailers need to respond in order to succeed. Customers are becoming much more informed and discerning thanks to the interwebs. J.Crew can position their product however they want but if it gets panned here then it's off my list.

  6. I agree w/xoxo. The community largely influences me. The irl pics are key because we all know how different the products can be in comparison to the catalog. The woolen twill minnies (FA10) in warm taupe looked pink in the catalog and not as pink irl. Not bad, just different.

    The Target soundbite may be taken out of context. She could have been referring to her silver, metallic foot rest by Calypso. I take a lot of what I read online w/a grain of salt these days. There's so much erroneous info.

  7. Thanks for sharing the article, Alexis! I read this sort of article with interest. With the revival of the economy, retail is a sort of belweather/marker of the overall business climate. Agreeing with others, the comments reported in the article seem ever so slightly off the mark. Consumers at all levels are looking for value for their money. To me, JC got sucked into the "lower the production cost/quality to up the profit margin" game in the last couple of years. Seriously, I cannot, for the life of me, see why anyone, well off or not, would pay $70+ for a cotton blouse that will 1) be marked down in a month or so by 50% or more and 2) fall apart after a few washings. I am definitely in the camp for forking over a good chunk of my hard-earned salary to pay for classic, durable goods. JC and other retailers can call me a happy customer if they can meet this criteria. And for the longtime JCAs, you'd agree, while seeing a JC item on TV or a celeb is exciting, we'd all be happier if JC brought back the quality detailing and unique styles that use to be their (almost exclusive) purview. Mild rant over ;)

  8. With the exception of a few pieces (e.g., my Max Mara coat), I buy very few items of clothing that are higher end than J Crew. And Loft is about as low as I go.

  9. count me in the extreme hi/lo camp. Fruit of the Loom Ts to Celine sandals this spring--that's my usual MO. I look for what suits me and consider it carefully whether hi or lo, boom or bust, before I purchase--I hate buyers remorse! JC is starting to be much more prominent in the closet since I "found" them almost 2 years ago. I never regret what I buy there.


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