When I heard rumors that J. Crew was launching an affordable store called J.Crew Mercantile, I got my cerulean and maroon striped cashmere sweater in a twist. My first reaction was that theyâ€™re going to ruin J. Crew like how they ruined the ending ofÂ How I Met Your Mother. Secondly, what does Mercantile mean?
Iâ€™ll admit that I have a problem with budget or outlet stores to begin with. Itâ€™s not because I can afford the originals and think the stuff in the outlets are crap. I canâ€™t afford the regular line and know the outlet is crap. Luckily J. Crew already has the budget market covered with J. Crew Factoryâ€“a brand I often forget exists, kind of like those other two onÂ Girls. You know the one with the weird name and crazy hairstyles, and the one always wearing grandma nighties? Â Â Itâ€™s not my stylish little secret, itâ€™s where I would go if I were a mom of four who drives a minivan and needed something that could be thrown in the wash…but came in a snazzy color.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Mercantile wonâ€™t be an outlet. The stores will be in suburban areas, closer to cities, with the same price point as Factory. This description is about as clear as the air in Miley Cyrusâ€™s house, so I thought maybe the name would lend more clues:
Websterâ€™s dictionary defines mercantile as: â€śof or relating to the business of buying and selling products to earn money of or relating to trade or merchants.â€ť The earning money bit makes sense because WSJ reported that the new concept store is intended to stop J. Crewâ€™s promotions being lost due to heavy discounting and sales.
Iâ€™m not an accountant nor do I have a PhD in economics, but isnâ€™t spending money opening new stores that sound exactly like the J. Crew Factory not the best way to increase profit margins?
I love J. Crew clothing. I donâ€™t love spending $150 on a necklace that looks like my cat tangled it. Wouldnâ€™t the more rational approach be to make J. Crewâ€™s clothes more affordable? Cut down on a sequin or two here or taper that leather sleeve there and sell the garment for cheaper. Donâ€™t cut cornersâ€“literallyâ€“on fit and quality.
Itâ€™s the Gap, Old Navy debacle all over again. I didnâ€™t mind the Gap. Sometimes I found their prices were a bit too inflatedâ€“kind of like Kanye Westâ€™s egoâ€“ but I still shopped there and I just waited for the sales. When Gap Inc. announced they were opening up the more budget-friendly Old Navy, did I start suddenly shopping there? No. Old Navy doesnâ€™t look like Gap, it doesnâ€™t fit like Gap, nor will it ever replace the Gap.Â Yes, Old Navyâ€™s profits were huge but the customers who were going there for brightly colored fleeces and $4 flip flops werenâ€™t the same ones going to the Gap for classic khakis and sophisticated casual tops. Ask anyone in the mall, and they probably donâ€™t even know Gap and Old Navy are part of the same company.
It seems like having a third J. Crew offshoot is like having another Kardashian reality spin-offâ€“one was plenty enough to begin with. While they build the new stores, Iâ€™ll be at my local J. Crew waiting for the price to drop on those $200 sandals, with my 30% coupon in hand.