J. Crew is struggling.
Sales have been slumping. In the 2014 fiscal year, the company suffered a net loss of $US657.8 million. The brand has faced criticism from its target customers for supposedly gaudy designs, high prices, and declining quality. The company laid off 10% of its corporate staff.
A longtime customer, Eliza Cohen, has a website, “How to Fix J. Crew,” that points out four major mistakes she says the company is making.
Cohen admits she is not a retail professional; she’s a millennial in her late 20s and she works in digital marketing. However, she writes “my reason for writing is quite simple … I miss the old J. Crew and I need it back in my life.”
“You might not know it,” she writes, “but you actually miss me, too. Between 2009-2012, I shoped at J. Crew, J. Crew Outlet, and both online stores, three times per fiscal quarter on average (spending approximately $US4150 per visit).”
Here are the four mistakes Cohen says the company is making:
1. The company has strayed from its roots.
In the aughts, J. Crew’s clothes were notable for “the quality, craftmanship, and clean lines,” Cohen writes.
“But here we are in 2015 and something has been lost in translation with the brand. Your silhouettes are distorted. Your colours are muted. You are distracted by off-brand collaborations,” Cohen writes.
2. Relying too much on Madewell (which it owns).
“Madewell’s success has been driven by a subset of millennials airing on the hip side. And what I hope brands experiencing slumping sales in the past quarter have learned, is that hip doesn’t always have staying power,” she says.
3. Collaborating with high-end brands.
“These collaborations, which have historically also been off silhouette, sometimes cost up to $US500 and are simply put, irritating,” she writes.
4. Getting distracted by what other brands are doing.
“In my opinion, these brand’s [Gap and Banana Republic] struggles are the result of placing too strong of an emphasis on aligning the brand (both identity and seasonal lines) with the fickle tastes of millennials,” she writes. “Unfortunately, J. Crew has also put this emphasis on its brand as well.”
Cohen once again reminds the reader that she lacks formal expertise in this arena, but she believes J. Crew should listen to customers.
We reached out to J. Crew for comment and will update if we hear back.
You can read the full letter here.