Friday, August 22, 2008

J. Crew Bets on Luxury-For-Less

It’s a gutsy move. While Americans are worrying about the economy, Mickey Drexler is building out J. Crew’s brand portfolio. He’s repositioning J. Crew as affordable luxury, and launching two new luxury-for-less concepts: Madewell which is aimed at women and The Tribeca Men's Shop.

Fortune Magazine’s story today on “The King of Cool” outlines how Drexler hopes to use these moves and a few others to better serve the children of the baby-boomers, who are three years away from getting into their 20s. He’s not the only one who sees an opportunity as Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) and American Eagle Outfitters both recently launched more adult brands, too.

But Drexler is counting on his finely-tuned sense of what we want now. Monolithic brands are out – authenticity is in with upscale consumers. So, in addition to opening Tribeca Men's Store in the site of the long-closed Liquor Store bar in NYC and repositioning J. Crew, both stores will feature a few iconic product brands that add to their credibility and appeal. J. Crew will offer men's shirts in fabrics made by Thomas Mason, the textile manufacturer that many Jermyn Street haberdashers use. And the Tribeca Men's Shop assortment will include vintage Timex watches.

Drexler is one merchant who appreciates the power of branding. His choice of how to grow the J. Crew brand and business now is a classic contrarian move. I, for one, would never bet against him.

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