J. Crew Nears Deal for Men’s Store in Boston

J. Crew is close to taking its men’s concept on the road.

J. Crew is close to taking its men’s concept on the road.

This story first appeared in the June 9, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The specialty store retailer is on the verge of signing a lease to open a men’s-only store in Boston this fall. This would mark the first men’s-specific store outside of the New York City metropolitan area. The company operates three others in the TriBeCa and SoHo neighborhoods of Manhattan and the Garden State Plaza in New Jersey. A fourth New York City store is slated to open at 1040 Madison Avenue in mid-August.

“Men’s is an important priority for us,” Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chief executive officer of J. Crew Group Inc., told shareholders at the annual meeting in New York on Tuesday. “We’re really proud of the business we’ve done. Men’s has been a non-growth business for decades.” But with its men’s-only initiative, he said, new customers have been attracted to the company. Drexler said the J. Crew men’s business is centered around “iconic classics” that are curated especially for the stores. “It has reinvented the business for us,” he said. “And trendwise, we couldn’t be more pleased with our men’s business.”

After the meeting, Drexler told WWD the company doesn’t have enough space at its Copley Place mall store in Boston. “It’s a highly penetrated business and we have a lot more demand from guys. We’ve outgrown the store so [opening a men’s-only store] is the perfect opportunity to expand,” he said.

Other initiatives with growth potential include online offerings from all the company’s brands, including the Crewcuts children’s collection and Wedding. The first bridal store opened on Madison Avenue at the end of last month and Drexler said he is happy with the initial response. The store also gives the company the opportunity to increase sales of “party and special occasion dresses, jewelry, both regular and vintage, as well as shoes and accessories,” he said.

Factory outlets are also popular with customers, he said, and will be expanded. “The higher the demand for J. Crew product, the higher the demand for factory product,” he said.

J. Crew Collection, a higher-priced line that is in 10 stores and a freestanding unit in New York, will also grow. It will be “a strategic expansion as we evaluate market opportunities,” he said. “We continue to move upward as demand for better goods grows.”

Sales at the company’s Madewell division, which is still in the early stages, have been outstanding, and its newly launched Web site has started out strongly. “We’re really pleased,” he said. “It’s a whole new opportunity for us.”

All told, he said, the $1.6 billion company is sticking to its strategy of trying to “innovate every day” without “looking in the rearview mirror” and stay focused on long-term growth. Maintaining “integrity,” both in terms of product and pricing, is paramount to the company’s future success, Drexler told shareholders.

For the first quarter ended May 1, the company reported net income more than doubled to $44.7 million on a 20 percent rise in sales to $413.9 million. Comparable-store sales rose 15 percent.