J. Crew is a leading brand in classic styles that has established and loyal customers. A highly sought after brand by many prep school students, Ivy League college enrollees, intellectuals, and high society members. Although the brand is understated in displaying its logos, the J. Crew look is often easily recognized. For the purposes of this paper, I will be analyzing customers purchasing behavior at two local J. Crew stores and share my findings.
J. Crew’s key indicators for the upcoming Fall 2016 season was not dramatically moved by trends within the fashion industry, or shifting economic indicators, as their brand, pricing, and image has remained consistently high end. The brand does not have to make huge overhauls in pricing and can often command top dollar for its high quality knits and fabrics in spite of economic down turn. Considering the job market is still recovering and although we are no longer in a recession, the economy is still stunned from the long term, and lasting effects, J. Crew has not changed its price points to accommodate. A simple women’s silk button up can command top dollar at $95. Many trends come and go within the fashion industry, and although this season’s showings at New York Fashion Week included some radical variations on pinstripes, and bright primary colors, the recent collections advertised at J. Crew remain classic and understated.
My first visit to a local J. Crew store at (Insert Mall name) in (Insert City, State) was on Monday, September 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm. The store had a clean over all look with cream colored walls, light wood floors, and simplistic mannequin figures that were well styled and garnished with draping pearlesque jewelry. The vibe of the store is mature, which is emphasized by a classic American soundtrack of “The Beatles” and “Ray LaMontagne” mixes. The staff that is hired looks “bookish” and well groomed. All of them dressed in simple, well knit fabrics with hound’s-tooth, pinstripes, and earthy tones; delivering the J. Crew brand with every look. The store did not have many customers on that day. The sole customer of the afternoon was a mother pushing a stroller through the store. She had on an oversized green cardigan, and printed floral dress in pinks, light greens, and yellow, with boat shoes. I asked the on duty Sales Associate if they could tell me more about their bestselling styles, and they indicated that between both men and women’s categories, a classic plaid boy shirt usually sold very well. I was then led to similar shirts on both sides of the store. These shirts were basic (for both men and women, made with cotton, the colors were often deep earthy tones of dark greens, blues, and reds, large silhouettes (often oversized, hiding the frame), and within the details were simplistic buttons and pockets ($ womens, $98 mens).
My conclusions were that consumers must be interested in these styles because they are both casual and can be mixed in with formal. These shirts well do well with jeans, and a blazer can be thrown over them to transform the look into business casual. Bringing more bang for the buck. As a product manager I would carry over this look for both men and women simply because they are time tested. I have seen people interested in this look in magazines as far back as the 1970’s.
On my second visit to the same J. Crew store at (Insert Mall name) in (Insert City, State) on Monday, September 19, 2016 at 12:00 pm, not much had changed as far as the layout of the store or the mannequins. At the time no one was shopping within the store, and the sales staff looked very much the same as they filled out paperwork behind the cash register. The Sales Associate indicated that the men’s thermals ($58.50) and new balance sneakers for J. Crew ($80) were picking up sales. The thermals were made of cotton with some hem work done at the neckline and arms. The new balance sneakers were made of leather and in understated tans, whites, and another pair light green. The subtle use of colors on both of these products, and the fact that both were practical and simple would lead me to carry these products over as a product manager. Customers must be interested in these styles because of how clean and high quality both appear to be (the same thermals can be found at a local Wal Mart for much less but do not appear quite as clean cut or attractive).
My third visit to a local J. Crew store at (Insert Mall name) in (Insert City, State) was on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm. At this point the mannequins had been changed over and had less jewelry, and all the sleeveless shirts had disappeared and had been traded for long sleeves to keep up with the fall season. The foot traffic in the store was much busier than the previous Mondays on which I visited. Now the store was full of families shopping together, men alone, and college students in groups shopping together (girls). A sales associated indicated that they noticed interest in their hoodies ($78) and sweaters ($89.50). The sweaters were made of wool, and had a neat trim. The hoodies were made of cotton and often had pockets in the front. The interest in these pieces had to be associated with the upcoming cool weather that is reflective of seasons change in the fall. As a product manager I would carry over these products because of their quality, and need in fall/winter seasons.
J. Crew’s most direct competition at this mall would be Banana Republic, of which I made a visit to on Monday, September 19 at 12:45 pm. This competitor creates a similar product, shopping experience, quality and price point. The store is even understated just like J. Crew. One major difference I find between these brands is that Banana Republic seems to have more a clean, business chic look to it versus J. Crew having a nice rugged, classic, All-American feel. Also, the ambiance of Banana Republic is much darker than that of J. Crew. In order for J. Crew to stay competitive against this brand, they should remain different in the ways in which they are in order to not serve the exact same experience.
From the eyes of a Product Manager, these three visits made it easy for me to classify what exactly J. Crew’s brand was offering; high quality fabrics in classic styles. A piece of clothing from J. Crew could be purchased and worn for an entire life time. In order to achieve lifelong quality, the styles and patterns are simple. These fashion “ideas” are timeless and as an employee for this brand I would be able to easily find looks for the company that could fit their brand.