Women are abandoning J Crew, one of middle class America’s staple fashion stores, because they’re seriously pissed off with the company “meddling” with the quirky, preppy clothes and shoes it’s famous for.
Clothing revenue took a turn for the worse and this quarter following changes it made to its famous Cece ballet flats, which massively hurt sales. It couldn’t come at a worst time.
J Crew already had a “lousy year,” according to J Crew’s Mickey Drexler on an analyst conference call in March. Effectively, the company fell foul of the age old adage of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” He admitted then that J Crew “meddled too much with its classic styles and offered unappealing silhouettes and fits.“
J Crew’s brand, which sits comfortably in the middle of the cheap-to-luxury scale of high street fashion, was known as preppy, quirky and cool.
Basically, the brand went from selling this tailored look:
To this somewhat shapeless sack:
Judging by the brand’s latest set of results, this “meddling” is having a lasting effect on revenue.
This week, the company’s flagship J Crew brand, which accounts for around 90% of total sales, reported a 5% fall in revenue to $US508.7 million (£332.4 million) in the three months ending May 2. J Crew comparable sales decreased 10%, following a decrease of 3% in the first quarter last year.
This pushed its net loss to $US462.4 million (£302 million).
“During the first quarter, the Company experienced a further significant reduction in the profitability of its J Crew reporting unit, primarily driven by performance of women’s apparel and accessories, which the Company expects to continue at least through fiscal 2015,” said the company in its results statement.
Effectively, J Crew has seriously annoyed its core customers because of some changes it made to its most popular product. This quarter, it is all down to this shoe:
Prices start at $US125 in the US for J Crew’s Cece ballet flat and £125 in the UK. Originally made in Italy and from real leather, it was a staple product that women loved. Women, including some BI staffers, said these shoes were so well-made and so comfortable that they’d immediately replace them after wearing them for years.
However, J Crew discontinued the product in early 2014 and then brought back the popular ballet flat by the end of that year.
Same price as before but with a big difference — the ballet flat was now made in America. And according to customer reviews, the shoes are really uncomfortable compared to the old model. Here are some of the reviews on the website:
Even a blog called J.Crew Aficionada, which is run by a “devoted” fan of the retailer, posted about the quality of the new model of the shoe.
Some of the comments underneath the blog also remark about the difference between the new and old model of the Cece ballet flat.
So, what’s J Crew doing about it?
J Crew’s CEO Mickey Drexler admitted that the company has made some “missteps” and the group is looking to return to its roots after acknowledging that it had swayed too far away from its “look.”
“An iPhone looks like an iPhone,” said Drexler in March. “And I don’t think J. Crew women’s looked like J. Crew women’s as much as it could have, nor do I think that we marketed it and messaged it as well as we could have.”
“I could say we’re making progress, but the customers will in fact vote on that.”