J.Crew’s plotting a comeback, but we’re skeptical that it will work

By Elizabeth Segran

June 01, 2018

According to a report from Racked, J.Crew is gearing up for a comeback. The brand sure needs it. Over the last few years, it’s gone from being one of the few successful mall brands in America to being just another retail catastrophe. Last year, we reported extensively about the brand’s declining sales, which has led to firings and shuttered stores. The brand’s longtime creative director Jenna Lyons also left.


But the brand’s strategies to bring customers back into the store don’t sound very promising. For one thing, it is hoping to mimic its sister brand Madewell’s successful loyalty program. It will also relaunch its “data-driven personalization engine,” which will recommend products to customers in a more customized way. The company’s new CEO, Jim Brett (who previously ran West Elm), says that all of this will help make 2018 a “pivotal year” for the brand.

Neither of these concepts is particularly innovative in the retail industry. Many e-commerce brands and retailers have sophisticated algorithms that connect consumers with products. And Kobie Marketing recently found that younger generations are far less responsive to loyalty programs than older generations. They are more more interested in how competitive prices are and whether brands offer perks like free shipping.

Back in 2015, J.Crew launched a lower price line, Mercantile, into its outlets. But it is now incorporating those products into J.Crew stores. This might help, but all of these incremental changes will only take J.Crew so far. It seems like more fundamental changes are in order, such as bringing in a new creative director who can help redefine what J.Crew really stands for in a crowded marketplace. The brand could also stand to learn from startups about what retail strategies work best. In a retail landscape where generic stores are no longer exciting consumers, J.Crew could invest more in giving customers exciting in-person experiences.