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 they’re going to ruin J. Crew like how they ruined the ending of How I Met Your Mother. Secondly, what does Mercantile mean?
I’ll admit that I have a problem with budget or outlet stores to begin with. It’s not because I can afford the originals and think the stuff in the outlets are crap. I can’t afford the regular line and know the outlet is crap. Luckily J. Crew already has the budget market covered with J. Crew Factory–a brand I often forget exists, kind of like those other two on Girls. You know the one with the weird name and crazy hairstyles, and the one always wearing grandma nighties? It’s not my stylish little secret, it’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 won’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 Cyrus’s house, so I thought maybe the name would lend more clues:
Webster’s dictionary defines mercantile as: “of or relating to the business of buying and selling products to earn money of or relating to trade or merchants.” The earning money bit makes sense because WSJ reported that the new concept store is intended to stop J. Crew’s promotions being lost due to heavy discounting and sales.
I’m not an accountant nor do I have a PhD in economics, but isn’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 don’t love spending $150 on a necklace that looks like my cat tangled it. Wouldn’t the more rational approach be to make J. Crew’s clothes more affordable? Cut down on a sequin or two here or taper that leather sleeve there and sell the garment for cheaper. Don’t cut corners–literally–on fit and quality.
It’s the Gap, Old Navy debacle all over again. I didn’t mind the Gap. Sometimes I found their prices were a bit too inflated–kind of like Kanye West’s ego– 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 doesn’t look like Gap, it doesn’t fit like Gap, nor will it ever replace the Gap. Yes, Old Navy’s profits were huge but the customers who were going there for brightly colored fleeces and $4 flip flops weren’t the same ones going to the Gap for classic khakis and sophisticated casual tops. Ask anyone in the mall, and they probably don’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-off–one was plenty enough to begin with. While they build the new stores, I’ll be at my local J. Crew waiting for the price to drop on those $200 sandals, with my 30% coupon in hand.