J. Crew CEO confesses the 'very big mistake' that sent the company spiraling

J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler says one huge mistake sent the company’s sales into a years-long decline.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Drexler, 72, said the retailer jacked up its prices at a time when customers were becoming increasingly cost-conscious.

“We gave a perception of being a higher-priced company than we were — in our catalogue, online and in our general presentation,” Drexler told the Journal. “Very big mistake.”

At the height of the Great Recession in 2008, J. Crew unveiled a higher-priced line, called J. Crew Collection.

The line, spearheaded by recently-departed head designer Jenna Lyons, debuted with a store on Madison Avenue in New York City featuring items such as a $US3,000 jacket “with French sequins in various shades of tortoiseshell hand-sewn into silk chiffon,” the now-defunct magazine Portfolio wrote at the time.

The higher prices alienated customers at a time when most Americans were strapped for cash and increasingly shopping at discount stores.

“We became a little too elitist in our attitude,” Drexler told the Journal.

In December, J. Crew was selling a number of its Collection items at staggering discounts of up to 70% off.
The website now features a pared-down selection of Collection items, and many of the items are under $US200.

In the past, Drexler has also attributed the company’s losses to a number of fashion misses.

J. Crew’s total sales fell 6% to $US2 billion last year and same-store sales dropped 8% following a decrease of 10% the prior year.

The company has more than $US2 billion of debt and less than $US150 million in cash.

Drexler is now trying to turn business around by putting a big emphasis on lowering prices and becoming a more “approachable” brand, he said.

“We’re getting back to being who we are — much more comfortable, approachable, democratic and friendly,” he told the Journal.

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