J. Crew is stepping on the accelerator to grow its men’s business.
This story first appeared in the February 16, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The retailer has signed a lease for its fourth men’s-only store in the New York area, WWD has learned, and is aggressively seeking locations for additional units outside Manhattan.
“Someone needed to step in and give men clothes they could wear, love and collect,” said Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chief executive officer of J. Crew Group Inc.
Saying the company is “becoming ambitious and opportunistic in our men’s business,” Drexler confirmed J. Crew will open a 3,400 square foot men’s store at 1040 Madison Avenue at 79th Street, across from a women’s store at 1035 Madison. The unit is expected to open in August or September.
The store will join three others devoted exclusively to men’s product: a unit on West Broadway in TriBeCa, known as the Liquor Store because of its location in a former bar; one at 484 Broadway in SoHo, and the only mall location, at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.
“It’s definitely a business now,” Drexler said. “It’s beyond the test phase.” Men’s overall accounts for around 25 percent of the company’s $1.4 billion volume.
Saying he “couldn’t be more pleased with the response to our other stores,” Drexler said he’s ready to expand beyond New York City. “We’re looking for the right locations in the right places in the right cities — places that will appreciate what we’re doing.”
The company is “actively looking” for sites in Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, he said, although there is no timetable for the rollout.
The plan, he said, is “not to open hundreds of stores in every mall location.” Instead, the company is taking a “less is more approach.” Each of these cities where the company is looking for space “can support a men’s store,” Drexler said, by virtue of their populations of “urban, sophisticated, fashionable and higher-income men who love fashion and love to look good.”
He credited Frank Muytjens, vice president of men’s design, for elevating the men’s assortment.
“Within the past two years, we’ve really revamped our entire approach to the men’s business,” Drexler said.
“The men’s world has not been a growth industry,” he said, but J. Crew has found success by investing in “quality and creativity,” he said. “We knew it couldn’t be just the same old thing.”
Drexler said among the signature items for men are washed shirts; chinos, particularly the slimmer-fit Bowery model, and the Ludlow and Aldrich suits. He said of the suits: “They’re simple and understandable” and appeal to a man who may be attracted to designer goods without the designer price tag. “We use the best Italian fabrics but keep the prices” reasonable, he said. The Ludlow, which uses Loro Piana fabrics and is sold as separates, retails for $165 for the pants and $365 for the jacket. The Ludlow, made from Lanificio Di Tollegno fabrics, retails for $395 for the jacket and $195 for the pants.
Drexler said J. Crew’s men’s collaborations, which include Thomas Mason shirts, Alden shoes, Superior Label canvas bags, Jutta Neumann sandals, Mackintosh coats, Baracuta jackets and Red Wing boots, have also connected with customers.
Proudly noting the company “micromanages” its men’s business, Drexler added: “Everything we do is very edited and preselected, and guys like that.”
Each of the men’s stores has its own personality, and Drexler said the newest addition will as well. “We haven’t developed the design yet; we just signed the lease, but our women’s store at 1035 looks like it’s always been there. We’ll apply the same inspiration to the men’s store. It won’t look like a downtown store, but one that fits into the neighborhood on the Upper East Side.”