3 reasons J. Crew is alienating its most important customers

J. crew models Keith Bedford/ReutersModels present creations from the J. Crew Spring/Summer 2014 collection during New York Fashion Week.

J. Crew is losing the young, professional women who used to be the brand’s biggest cheerleaders.

The brand’s sales are tanking as shoppers turn elsewhere, writes Elizabeth Holmes at The Wall Street Journal.

J. Crew’s recent woes are surprising because the retailer was known for having the most ardent fans in the industry, according to WSJ.

“Apparel brands come and go. Few boast shoppers as emotionally involved as J.Crew’s,” Holmes writes. “That can mean a high degree of consumer loyalty, or it can lead to a backlash.”

Here are a few reasons Holmes thinks the brand is struggling.

1. Bizarre styles.

In the past, J. Crew was renowned for its basics.

But as the brand moved toward luxury positioning, styles became increasingly offbeat.

Items like a cheetah-print baseball cap, quilted t-shirts, and gaudy jewellery were mocked as “terrible” by fashion blog “The Gloss.”

The company has since said it plans to focus more on basics.

“We’ve made some missteps over the last year and we are working hard to course correct,” CEO Mickey Drexler said on a recent earnings conference call.

2. Quality complaints.

Many J. Crew fans say the clothing isn’t as well-made as it used to be.

Longtime customer Abra Belke, who writes for the Capitol Hill Style blog, says she no longer shops there, instead shopping for classic items on eBay.

“My ardent love for J.Crew did not go out in a blaze of glory like the Bon Jovi song commands,” she writes. “Instead, it slowly suffocated due to rapidly decreasing quality, prices adjusted to be discount-solvent, odd brand collaborations, and the overindulgence of Jenna Lyons’ cult of personality.”

Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s creative director, has become a celebrity in her own right.

WSJ reports that frequent sales make customers question the quality.

“A steady drumbeat of sales, with discounts of as much as 40%, has trained some shoppers to balk at paying full price,” WSJ writes.

3. Vanity sizing.

J. Crew is notorious for vanity sizing — a retail industry trick to make customers believe they are a smaller size.

For instance, vanity sizing means that retailers might take a size 6 dress and label it a size 2.

Fashion blogger J. Crew Afectionada first noticed the brand was selling a size 000. The blog notes that for years, petite women have shopped from the Crew Cuts line for children because the adult sizes are too big.

A size 000 is categorized as “XXXS.” According to J. Crew’s size chart, it is equivalent to a 23-inch waist. It’s a size 0 in the United Kingdom.

But because J. Crew often labels small sizes as larger than they actually are, it’s suggested that the size isn’t that small.

This has led to some customers saying they don’t trust the brand.

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