J. Crew’s profits are down 42% in the fourth quarter.
Chief Financial Officer Stuart Haselden blamed the decline on “traffic, the promotional activity across the industry and weather.”
While those factors are significant, they don’t explain why J. Crew is faring far worse than competitors like Banana Republic, Anthropologie, and Free People.
The biggest issue at J. Crew? The company’s fashions are too stale, Brian Sozzi, chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, told Business Insider.
J. Crew is “making little tweaks to the assortments here and there but nothing too risky,” Sozzi said. “Bold things not in a person’s closet is what’s needed to get them to spend right now.”
Rather than offer bold looks, J. Crew has largely stuck to the button-down shirts and khakis that made it famous, Sozzi said.
J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler said last year that the company had “strayed too far” with obscure fashions and would start sticking to basics again.
The company will have to offer more than high-quality staples to get customers’ attention.
“Outside of a few spring pieces, J. Crew 2014 looks like J. Crew of 2013 with lofty prices and better options from competitors,” Sozzi said.
He notes that Free People and Anthropologie are faring better by taking risks with merchandise. Ann Taylor’s brands are selling basics at cheaper prices, and are achieving positive sales.
“It’s time to mix it up a bit at J. Crew, and take some more risks in the assortment,” Sozzi said.