News of J.Crew’s bankruptcy yesterday had some consumers feeling nostalgic.
Posts on the retailer’s Instagram and Facebook pages were flooded with comments from sentimental customers (and former employees), who reflected fondly on past purchases from the 73-year-old brand. But as J.Crew looks to reemerge following its Chapter 11 filing, could sticking with the basics — and its heritage — help turn things around? Farla Efros, president of consulting firm HRC Retail Advisory, thinks so.
“Consumers love heritage — look at Vans, Converse, Adidas, Champion, Wayfarers,” said Efros. “There is a place in the hearts of consumers for these brands. “With the right restructuring, I think J.Crew — like many others — will come out of this and find its way back into the hearts of consumers, building on what made them popular back in the day.”
In addition to nostalgia-tinged comments — for instance, one Instagram follower wrote “My email address is literally lovesjcrew – you’ve been a staple in my life since the early ’90s and my closet reflects that. We’re pulling for you!” — a smattering of social media respondents urged the brand to focus on what it’s long been known for. J. Crew. Social media commenters suggesting the brand focus on offerings preppy basics, like its weathered chinos, pocket T-shirts and barn jackets, and skip more trend-focused offerings.
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“Please stick to your original quintessential J.Crew look that many of us had been following for over 30 years. No one does the stylish quality preppy look like J.Crew. Please remember many fans over the years and what they are looking for,” wrote one Facebook respondent.
But Jessica Ramirez, retail research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates, isn’t convinced a return to basics will be enough to resurrect J.Crew.
“J.Crew has not had a compelling story all around in some time,” she told FN. “The product assortment has had issues with sizing and hasn’t been on trend. The experience online and in-store has not been engaging.”
While some might point to the pandemic as the cause of J.Crew’s demise, the retailer has been floundering amid disappointing financial results for several years. J.Crew went private in a leveraged buyout in 2010. Around 2015, the apparel and accessories company took on a massive expansion project and attempted to cater to a more upscale audience in response to shifting consumer preferences and spending habits. The move was largely unsuccessful and, in the years that followed, a new loyalty program, collection launches and the debut of a third-party marketplace were unable to fix such missteps. Through Chapter 11 proceedings, the retailer is working with lenders to convert its debt load of about $1.7 billion into equity.