- Banana Republic and J.Crew both appeal to working professionals by stocking classic styles with a trendy twist.
- But both brands have hit some roadblocks in recent years.
- Banana Republic’s parent company, Gap Inc., announced it would be shifting attention away from Banana Republic and closing underperforming stores after the brand reported disappointing earnings in the first quarter of 2018.
- J.Crew has continued to struggle, with sales dropping for a third consecutive year.
But both brands have had their struggles in recent years.
In the first quarter of 2018, Gap reported a same-store sales growth of 3% for the Banana Republic brand. It was the first quarter in several years that the Banana Republic brand saw growth. It has long been seen as Gap Inc.’s weak link, in part because its styles tend to have a higher price tag than the company’s other brands. In late 2017,Gap announced it would be shifting focus away from its namesake brand and Banana Republic in favour of the Old Navy and Athleta brands. 200 underperforming Gap and Banana Republic stores are set to close by 2020.
J.Crew has also suffered from a customer perception that its prices are too high for the quality of its clothing. In the first quarter of 2018, comparable sales decreased 6%. This is the third consecutive year that sales have decreased for the brand, as it’s lost favour with some customers because it’s seen as overpriced, generic, and even “wannabe trendy.“
We visited Banana Republic and J.Crew to see which store we thought was better. Here’s what we found:
We visited the Banana Republic store in Manhattan’s Financial District.
In the window was a sign advertising a sale of 40% off regular-priced items. 40% off signs are also a common sight at Gap stores, as it’s part of their efforts to clear inventory as it works to keep up with fast-fashion retailers on trends.
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The inside of the store was very spacious and bright. Nearly every display was accompanied by a sale sign.
All of the furniture and decor felt very chic and modern …
… and luxury products sat behind glass cases throughout the store.
Most of the styles were very simple, with quiet patterns and muted colours. The styles were more put-together than what you would find at Banana Republic’s more casual sister brands Gap and Old Navy.
It also had a wall of more casual styles in the back of the store. Everything seemed to be of a pretty high quality.
For the most part, the prices weren’t cheap. Most pairs of pants and jeans cost upwards of $US80.
The back of the store featured what seemed to be a sale section, but it was hard to tell because so much of the store appeared to be on sale. This section carried sweaters, dresses, pants, casual tops, and a mix of other styles.
Banana Republic also had a small selection of sunglasses and handbags.
On the lower level of the store was a men’s section that rivaled the size of the women’s section.
Most of the menswear was less expensive than the women’s clothing upstairs. Sweaters cost around $US50 for men, and t-shirts were $US15.
The store was generally a nice shopping experience. The people working were all very friendly and helpful, the store itself was a nice space to shop in, and the clothes seemed to be high-quality. But even with most of the store being discounted, the prices were still pretty high.
We went to J.Crew next, also in the Financial District.
The styles were a lot more colourful and casual than at Banana Republic, and I didn’t see any sale or discount signs.
A lot of the dresses seemed to be a bit flimsier than at Banana Republic, but the price tags were about the same, with simple dresses sometimes costing upwards of $US100.
In fact, some products were even more expensive at J.Crew. A pair of pants was $US110 at J.Crew, compared to $US88 at Banana Republic.
Even though J.Crew was more expensive, there were still a few opportunities to save. For example, if you bring in an old pair of jeans to donate to the Blue Jeans Go Green program, you can receive $US20 off a new pair.
There were more accessories like sunglasses, hats, and shoes here than at Banana Republic. The store also had a lot of casual wear.
In the back of the store was a children’s section. Banana Republic had no equivalent to this.
J.Crew also had a separate, dedicated men’s section.
The men’s clothes were less expensive than Banana Republic’s options and the women’s clothes at J.Crew, but the quality varied. A light men’s sweater cost about $US50.
Even though J.Crew had more variety in terms of carrying more styles, accessories, and children’s clothes, the styles and quality were better at Banana Republic, and the prices were often the same or lower.
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