Is J.Crew Destined for Death?

February 10, 2020 Topic: economy Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: J. CrewRetailEconomyFashionClothesBusiness

Is J.Crew Destined for Death?

Can they survive and thrive? The signs don't look good, but they do have some options. 

Since May 2018, I have been focusing on my health, in a quest to lose some serious weight. While it has been a clear struggle, so far, I have gone from roughly 265 pounds down to about 170. I went from being a size 42 waist—sometimes a size 44—to now a 32. And so far, as of today, plus or minus 2-4 pounds, I have been holding my weight loss gains.

My story is, like most people, I would eat under pressure or stress. If I had any sort of challenge, personal problem or challenge in my life, you can sure bet my weight would rise. It wasn’t until just recently I saw this challenge for what it is, sought out professional help, and made the dietary changes necessary to ensure I have a better quality of life. I have truly been blessed.

But all of that means one thing: I needed to buy a lot of new clothes and had to keep buying them over time as I shed the pounds. One of the best retailers I have found has been J.Crew. Being forty years old, they were a brand I recognized, I always liked their clothing and wanted to give them a shot (however, I could never afford it). So it was with great pride that I could purchase their clothes, as it was an important marker in my weight loss journey, that I could actually fit into clothes I could be proud of and not just what I could find.

And as I have lost more weight and stabilized, I keep going back to J.Crew, as they have a nice mix of men’s clothes for work or play, fair prices for the quality you get, and a sense of style that fits my own personal taste. The only problem: I am not sure how long they will last.

You see, J.Crew has a problem that many retailers have these days. Shifts in consumer attitudes thanks to a new generation of millennial customers, high-debt levels, and a long and drawn out CEO search make for a tough marketplace to compete in. Moreover, J.Crew suffers from an even longer-term challenge of figuring out where the brand fits in 2020’s craze of more popular “fast fashion” trends. Additionally, J.Crew has invested heavily in its newer Madewell brand and stores, which are doing much better with strong growth—so well that the new brand could even be spun off J.Crew Group, casting even more doubt on J.Crew’s overall future.

I have not lost hope yet, though. J.Crew’s online presence and website are first-rate, customer service in their retail stores is excellent no matter where I shop and the quality of their product has been very consistent. I would argue what J.Crew needs is an updated and more trendy in-store experience, as it feels like the same store of the 1990s. While I don’t think that won’t fix all of this brand’s problems, if the goal is attracting new customers, a better in-store experience that is a little more 2020 and less 1990 could be a place to start.

Harry J. Kazianis is a Senior Director at the Center for the National Interest and Executive Editor of their publishing arm, the National Interest. His work and ideas have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, USA Today, The Week, The Hill, the American Conservative and many other outlets across the political spectrum. Harry enjoys writing about technology issues and products from a real-world perspective, having previously worked in the telecommunications industry from 2000-2011. You can follow him (or yell at him) on Twitter: @Grecianformula.

Image: Reuters