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MA#7 - CopyThe fashion brand J.Crew has gone through several iterations. After starting off as the place to find preppy wardrobe basics, it expanded into more cutting-edge fashion in recent years. But the edge can be a tough place to stay, prompting another new approach that gets back to basics but also expands the product lines in multiple directions. In particular, the company’s new CEO James Brett is determined to expand the range of prices available in the store. The edgy, fashion-forward designs that most recently have been on store shelves often were out of reach of most shoppers, and even the basic t-shirts and jeans were relatively expensive. Accordingly, the retailer had suffered years of declining sales.

Today though, the shirts start at $14.50, and the more expensive versions add something appealing, such as a specialty fabric. With the customer-oriented philosophy that “You have to have a competitive T-shirt. If you lose them on the basics, then they’re not shopping you that often,” Brett is determined to appeal to a wider range of shoppers.

In addition to the price-based line extension, J.Crew will stock a broader range of sizes, including plus sizes. The styles and fits also will grow in number, such that it plans to offer jeans in slim, regular, and curvy fits. At the same time, the range of colors will grow, offering more options than the sometimes monochromatic design choices in the past. Although these changes represent a marked departure from the company’s most recent merchandising plan, in a sense they represent a return to its roots. It even is reintroducing a “vintage” roll-neck sweater that was vastly popular several decades ago.

Furthermore, in a different and equally significant form of expansion, J.Crew is inserting its products into more stores. It mainly has relied on dedicated stores, with some availability in Nordstrom as well. The new plan includes agreements with retailers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Europe, meaning that the expanded range of products also will be available in an expanded number of locations. At the same time, it has entered into an agreement with Amazon, which will establish a J.Crew online storefront where shoppers can find the expanded array of merchandise. This J.Crew storefront will highlight the company’s Mercantile line, a collection of everyday clothing items for men and women, priced to be accessible to most shoppers.

Thus Brett hopes to ensure that J.Crew lives up to one of his central beliefs about marketing and retailing in the modern world: “We must reflect the America of today, which is significantly more diverse than the America of 20 years ago. You can’t be one price. You can’t be one aesthetic. You can’t be one fit.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What kinds of extensions is J.Crew undertaking?
  2. Is there a risk that it will expand too far?

 

Source: Khadeeja Safdar, “New J.Crew CEO’s Strategy: Lower Prices, More Sizes,” The Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2018; George Anderson, “J.Crew Makes the Jump to Amazon’s Marketplace,” Retail Wire, September 7, 2018

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