NEW YORK — J. Crew Group held its first annual meeting Tuesday since going public in June 2006 and it proved to be a breeze for Millard "Mickey" Drexler, the chairman and chief executive.
"Our business strategy is simple," Drexler told a group of about 30 shareholders and associates at the Gramercy Park Hotel. "It"s to give customers the best we can give them. Quality is a religion for us."
He added: "Our goal is to be the best, not the biggest."
"We want to be famous for certain things," like the critter details and madras, he noted. "We don"t want to be in the commodity [business]," Drexler said.
Then he preached the gospel of elevated standards that he and his team have implemented — from the design and fabrications of J. Crew products, to some trading up to higher price points without sacrificing lower prices, and strengthening ties to customers, even if it takes e-mailing them personally.
Drexler recently mailed a letter to 40,000 top customers providing them with his e-mail address and those of some of his other top lieutenants, such as Jeff Pfeifle, the president; Lisa Barnes, head of customer service, and Jill Hennessey, head of retail stores. He"s encouraging shoppers to e-mail as a way to resolve any problems with J. Crew and promising a response within 24 hours. In the corporate world, Drexler noted, "It"s really difficult to get to a ceo today."
However, at J. Crew, there"s access. "We promise to get back to our customers, particularly in the wedding dress area where there is a lot of anxiety. We are there 24-7 to take care of you. We have no layers in this regard. We all work for our customers," Drexler said.
Later, Drexler said he"s received only a few e-mails, so apparently customer satisfaction is high. The proof is in the results. For the three months ended May 5, J. Crew"s net income more than tripled to $24.6 million, from $7.8 million, and same-store sales jumped 13 percent, or 8 percent after adjustments for calendar shifts.At the meeting, there were more positive numbers to report, including productivity gains. Drexler cited "three years of double-digit comp-store growth," and a hike in operating profit from an 8.3 percent rate in 2005 to 10.6 percent in 2006. Sales per square foot grew 15 percent to $542 from $470, and there was a 16 percent increase in inventory, driving a 24 percent revenue increase last quarter.
The ceo reiterated what he"s been saying for a while, that J. Crew is focused on providing customers with alternatives to very high-priced designer collections, and pointed to some of the brand"s top-priced products, including the $2,500 wedding gown. J. Crew has traded up within the past year or so with its J. Crew Collection for women, though Drexler stressed, "We don"t buy a lot of goods. Usually demand exceeds our supply and we like that."
Within the pricier side of the offering, there are also $3,000 shearling coats and men"s handmade blazers in the $2,000 range.
While adding some higher-priced items, "I don"t want anyone to think we are not protecting our friendly price points," Drexler stated. It remains multitiered.
He described J. Crew as a balanced, multichanneled company where 70 percent of the volume emanates from stores, 27 percent from direct, and 3 percent from other areas. The company operates 186 retail stores and 53 factory outlets, as well as catalogues and a Web site. Drexler said 49 percent of J. Crew"s active customers shop multiple channels, and that the multichannel customer spends twice as much. The plan is to open 37 retail stores in 2007, which translates to 7 to 9 percent net square footage growth.
The new Madewell brand, launched by Drexler last year, is geared for women who want cool clothes but don"t want to take a mortgage out to buy them, as he said. The brand has five stores in operation and is closing in on a Manhattan location.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty