Madewell Succeeds as J. Crew Fails

It’s no secret: with each passing month, J. Crew’s sales continue to decline. The company is loaded with debt and customer interest is dwindling.  

This past November, J. Crew reported a sales decrease of 12 percent and a closure of nearly half their stores. J. Crew spent most of 2017 working to regain success through the removal of their CEO Mickey Drexler and Creative Director Jenna Lyons.

But their main attempt to thrive? Mirroring the success of their sister store, Madewell.

The Madewell brand has existed since 1937, originally selling assorted denim for factory workers and fisherman. J. Crew acquired Madewell back in 2006, and as Madewell’s sales have steadily soared, J. Crew’s have continued to plummet.

Why is Madewell so much more successful? Well, their clothes are… made well. They focus on high-quality, long lasting clothing that sells at a lower price point than J. Crew.

However, as a previous J. Crew sales associate (and marketing major) myself, I think the problem is actually a bit larger than that. J. Crew’s dress hemlines fall too long and their blouse designs are too boxy. While many of their designs are beautiful, they can often wind up feeling (and looking) rather matronly. J. Crew’s target market continues to appear undefined to the consumer. Their price point and clothing fit is aimed at older women, however they seek the attention of millennials (like Madewell).

The most current celebrity known to sport J. Crew is Michelle Obama. It’s impressive. But not as impressive as Madewell, which is worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Schilling, Amy Adams and Emma Stone, just to name a few.

There’s a reason why customers are leaving J. Crew to shop at Madewell.  J. Crew’s bright patterns are often too “cutesy”. There’s a difference between femininity and childness. In a world heavy with competition, I believe J. Crew has yet to find a balance. Their quality also doesn’t match their price. J. Crew sweaters, priced upwards of $100, have been known to get holes and their several hundred dollar wool jackets are quick to pill.

Frankly, J. Crew’s turmoil comes as no surprise to me. There are many aspects of the brand that I genuinely love and I’ll forever cherish my extremely positive experience as an employee. But if they don’t make big changes fast, they’re doomed.

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