Lately, J.Crew has been changing around its business operations quite a bit. In the summer of 2015, J.Crew replaced its Head of Women’s Design, Tom Mora, with sister brand Madewell’s Somsack Sikhounmuong. A year later, in September 2016, the company started selling its flagship brand’s clothing line in select Nordstrom locations across the country. (Madewell had already been part of Nordstrom’s merchandise prior to the new partnership.) On Oct. 11, J.Crew launched its first ever activewear collection. The brand, historically known for its heritage flair and stylish ready-for-work wear, partnered with New Balance to follow the athleisure trend. And now, the brand is dropping its bridal line.
While each of these changes directly affects different departments and responsibilities, it seems as though they all fall under a common factor: struggling sales. With the dismissal of Tom Mora and the new activewear launch, J.Crew is attempting to revive sales. In the most recent fiscal quarter, it was reported that revenues for the namesake brand dropped 4 percent. Sales decreased 6 percent. The most alarming thing about the 6 percent drop, however, is that it’s following a 13 percent drop earlier in the same year.
The news is apparent on its website, where wedding gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses are all on sale. J.Crew stated that it would not replenish stock once the pieces sell out. A source close to the brand told Racked that “the company was unhappy with how the category was operating.” J.Crew had been exploring other avenues, mainly one to create
more inexpensive versions of its bridal collection. However, that would come at the price of quality and that was not even an option for compromise. Cutting out this particular division seemed to make more sense for J.Crew’s brand equity.
Bridesmaids’ dresses and wedding gowns were part of J.Crew’s main offering since 2004. The bridal collection was exclusive to J.Crew’s website up until 2010, when it opened its first bridal-only store in New York City.
The retail industry is a hard business to be in. This comes as no surprise. Thanks to “fast fashion,” trend cycles are speeding up while seasons are becoming increasingly shorter. This, along with razor-thin profit margins, put severe downward pressure on retailers to cut prices and costs whenever possible. Everyone within the industry is struggling somewhat. It’s important to view brands and companies in the context of their industry. Even if a retailer is facing consistent losses, if the industry average profits are in decline, the retailer isn’t actually doing as poorly as it looks. The key thing to both strategic and financial success is gaining that competitive advantage. How is that done? By being better than the industry average. The means by which higher profits are realized is up to debate, however. There are various schools of thought and each have compelling arguments.
It looks as though J.Crew’s current strategy involves cutting losses in order to focus on other, more promising segments of its business. Phasing out the bridal line seems to make the most financial sense given the current climate. I am a bit sad to see the bridal collection go. To me, almost as classic as J.Crew’s chinos pants are its bridal collection paired with the Ludlow Suit. It seems we’ve reached an end of an era.