Exec/style icon Jenna Lyons explains why you can't afford J. Crew anymore
J. Crew used to be the go-to catalog I could circle gift ideas for relatives in around Christmas and my birthday. Even when the preppy purveyor's tastes ran a bit contrary to my edgier aesthetic, who can't use a cashmere sweater? But for a while now, I've become too embarrassed by the prices to request gifts from J. Crew from anyone but my nearest and dearest. You can't exactly ask for a $300 sequin skirt from your Aunt. (I did some research after writing that sentence, and actually one J. Crew sequin skirt costs $750.)
Over the past decade or two J. Crew has slowly crept prices up and up, and they keep being able to do it year after year because people keep paying it.
"We sort of, over time, tested the waters and I think when [customers] understand and believe in what we're doing and can see the value, there's no resistance," Creative Director Jenna Lyons said, citing the more expensive Italian cashmere that she and J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler introduced during the rebranding. (The rebranding basically constists of Jennafying J. Crew, the exec has become a style icon to customers and most J. Crew employees are acolytes.)
"We had to raise the price a little bit because we were offering a much different product than we'd offered before. We did that and we explained to the customer that this is a different level of quality and that's why we're charging more," Lyons told The Daily.
When luxury retailers talk about "no resistance" from consumers that basically means that their research and testing proves they can charge whatever they want and people just keep paying. So they keep raising the price. While it might be unfair to say the price hikes are arbitrary, the "no resistance" line nudges one's thoughts in that direction.
Lyons may claim to have had a "wonderful response from people," but there is much grumbling from the brand's cult-like fans about prices. J. Crew may well be alienating their core customers. Maybe they're okay with that. Maybe it will prove to be a successful strategy, maybe it won't. One anonymous J. Crew consultant said:
"[J.Crew is] having a hard time remembering that the rollneck sweater customer is what drives their revenue. The Fashion Week stuff is all fluff. Think about Ralph Lauren. Sure, he shows at Fashion Week and dresses some celebs and whatnot. However, his money comes from selling polo shirts at Belk's in Arkansas."