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J Crew’s Brand Distinction Shines Bright

03/07/2012

J. Crew is on a roll. In an era when retailers are mostly undifferentiated and largely dependent on sales or coupons to motivate consumers, J. Crew is an anomaly. In a good way. Crew’s product is attractive, well priced and very well merchandised – which is also counter to competitive trends.

Stop in to one of their stores or pick up a catalog and you’ll be treated to color, texture and, of course, the obligatory super-handsome men and women. Their website is quite functional but doesn’t have the same sensual impact the stores or catalog do.

The February catalog is awash in bright colors that instantly put the early spring blahs to rest.

Points of distinction for the catalog are:

  • Dedicating 10 pages to weddings and parties – apparently hosting an island wedding is the thing to do now. Crew introduces readers to Ashley, “our wedding guru” to aid in outfitting the bridal party – complete with Ashley’s phone number and email address
  • Resurrection of time-tested brand names – Tretorn…the shoe that won Wimbledon in the 1970’s is now available at J. Crew. Less unique, but still iconic – Timex watches
  • Kid’s section offering clothes that don’t look like little hip hop wannabes
  • Exclusive or unique product

For example: Standing out on multiple levels is a single page of Men’s shoes titled “Alden For J. Crew” (shown above). Alden is arguably one of the finest labels in men’s shoes (and a favorite of CEO Mickey Drexler, whose work uniform is a heather-gray T-shirt, a striped blue-and-white Thomas Mason… with shirttails out, slim, artfully aged Swedish jeans and Alden cordovan wingtips). What stands out is how attractive each pair is.

However that’s not the real story. Stunningly these are limited edition models – some with as few as 50 pair (total, worldwide, for eternity) available. Fantastic. Suddenly the $500 (on average) price point seems like a bargain. Brilliant. Lastly, Alden’s are made in the USA…even better still.

It’s refreshing to see a retailer, any retailer for that matter, step out, step up and behave like a merchant. Unfortunately for us, they are few and far between.
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