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Why No One is Surprised J Crew Filed for Bankruptcy

J. Crew has filed for bankrupcty. and no one is surprised. At least, I’m not, and there are several key reasons why. Let’s discuss. 

Reason 1: Failure to Adapt

J Crew has generally failed to adapt to newer styles through the years. What once could’ve been considered “classic” became stale. And this adaptation goes far beyond the clothes themselves, but to their marketing. Diverse body representation has become key for many businesses, but I can’t think of a single J Crew ad that shows any female model over a size 2 (at least in appearance). This speaks to the old but tired aesthetic they tried to achieve. An old aspiration that no longer exists. In 2020, more women want a big butt than to be rail thin, and J Crew never lent to these aspirations. The ideal J Crew customer appears to be a skinny rich white woman alone. 

Reason 2: J. Crew Devalued Themselves

Let this (J. Crew filing for bankruptcy) be a warning. Consumers have and are catching onto the “outlet” bullshit. These outlet stores sell completely different clothing than the retail store, yet carry the same name. the objective may have been to reach new consumers, but it also alienated their original customer base. When a person references “J. Crew” they typically just say that name whether the item is from J. Crew, the J. Crew Outlet, or “J. Crew Mercantile” which is also the J. Crew outlet, just with a different name. There is no brand value that comes with the name, and the brand then became associated with cheaply made, constantly on super-sale prices.

A tangent: What I find interesting is how well Madewell does for the J. Crew group. That brand better embodies what consumers today look for. 

Reason 3: J. Crew is Expensive Fast Fashion

This reason is truly a combination of reasons 1 and 2. Times have changed, and consumers want to be more informed about their clothing. J Crew continued it’s fast fashion ways while keeping it’s high retail prices. They did this simultaneously while devaluing themselves, and consumers realized that it’s ALL fast fashion, regardless of pretty marketing. Why would someone buy a $30 fast fashion tshirt when they could buy a $30 tshirt made from recycled fabric and pay fair wages across the world? Add into that the fact that someone would know the difference between a $30 J Crew tshirt or a $12 J Crew Mercantile tshirt, and of course you wouldn’t buy it. Brands like Everlane and Reformation can command these high prices because the consumer knows there are ethical practices behind them. J Crew didnt have that, and never made any steps towards it. 

What Might Have Saved J. Crew?

There are two major changes that may have saved J Crew: 1. Improving the VALUE of their products to the consumer and 2. Increasing their inherent BRAND value. Some steps to achieve this would be to shutter the J Crew outlets unless these were truly minor defects, previous season’s stock etc. Utilize the J Crew Outlet website as a true outlet, saving the previous collections, any minor defects etc and tell people that. Again, Everlane has the “Choose What You Pay” sale section, and Lululemon had their “We Made Too Much” page. That tells consumers that these are still high value items, but you’re lucky enough to get them slightly cheaper. 

What Now?

Well if you LOVE J.Crew clothing, then take advantage of the sales and get what you can while you still can. J.Crew and J.Crew Factory are constantly having “huge sales.” in fact, it was the constant email marketing that tipped me off to how badly the company was doing. My emails seemed to get more desperate each day. But hey, if you really want another preppy outfit that looks the same as it did in 2012, then be my guest. My guess is that the company J. Crew will end up putting more into Madewell and limit their retail store and outlet store physical locations, 

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