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Remember when J.Crew was trying to push $500 lace jogging pants, $800 skirts, and $1,900 sweaters? Those days are over.
The company is slashing prices in an attempt to tackle slumping sales and counter waning customer interest. Its most recent catalogue explicitly alerts customers to its newly affordable prices. “The perfect dress, the perfect price,” the copy alongside a $78 off-the-shoulder navy eyelet dress reads. “Keep an eye out for more prices that’ll make you smile, all throughout this Style Guide.”
Tank tops, tees, and dresses cost a fraction of the price they did last summer, an adjustment that mostly applies to classic J.Crew items, the brand confirmed to Racked; higher-end items still exist at J.Crew, but you’re likely to find them within the company’s Collection assortment.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, J.Crew chairman and chief executive officer Mickey Drexler confirmed his strategy; the brand is lowering the prices of exactly 300 items.
“We became a little too elitist in our attitude,” Drexler said. “We gave a perception of being a higher-priced company than we were — in our catalog, online, and in our general presentation... Very big mistake.”
Following sinking sales (decreasing 6 percent to $2 billion in 2016) and mass layoffs, the company is investing in “retuning J.Crew’s identity as an affordable and accessible brand for everybody — not just the fashion-forward crowd.” Drexler said the company is “getting back to being who we are — much more comfortable, approachable, democratic, and friendly.”
Pricing at J.Crew has become a major grievance for a brand that used to be known for selling trendy, affordable basics. Many credited J.Crew’s deviation into high-end fashion to Jenna Lyons, the company’s longtime creative director and president, who stepped down in April. Lyons made J.Crew cool, colorful, and more fashion-forward, but all that came with a price — literally. Plenty of shoppers complained the prices had gotten out of control; one even drew an illustrated open letter to the company at The Hairpin, telling the New York Post “I was a fan of J.Crew for over 20 years. But as I look at the catalogs now, I just don’t get it.”
WSJ notes that the price increase at J.Crew over the years wasn’t without cause. The brand was always interested in quality, often focusing and investing on small details. But now it’s competing with a new class of trendy fast fashion retailers that operate at lightning speed, and as the paper writes, “design details such as nicer buttons and richer colors are less apparent on the internet.”
To compete without marking everything down by 40 percent every other week, J.Crew’s created an analytics team to research and optimize the cost of each item. It also plans to switch up its supply chain beyond China so that clothing will arrive in stores faster (a page straight out of the playbooks at Zara, ASOS, and Boohoo). Drexler vows that J.Crew is “not going to allow our competitors to take from us,” but it remains to be seen if speedier production and cheaper pricing will help shoppers fall back in love with what was once America’s favorite basics store.