LONDON — J. Crew will open its fourth store here in September, a 4,500-square-foot unit in Sloane Square next door to Tiffany & Co. and not far from Kate Spade, Smythson and Cartier.
This story first appeared in the May 1, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Today, Jenna Lyons, J. Crew Group Inc.’s president and executive creative director, will host a breakfast at the soon-to-be-refurbished store at No. 16 Sloane Square in the former Links of London space.
As part of its move to Sloane Square, J. Crew is partnering with Buglife, a charity for the conservation of bees and other bugs. A barricade covering the building’s facade has been converted into a vertical “living garden” designed to attract bees and promote pollination. The living wall will be covered with 8,000 plants of 81 varieties, including lavender and rosemary.
Lyons said in an interview that she wanted to work with Buglife after seeing a “60 Minutes” documentary about the dying bee population. “I was incredibly shaken by it,” she said, adding that she could not pass up this opportunity to help bees.
As for the store, Lyons said J. Crew had not been planning on opening a fourth unit so quickly after cutting the ribbon on three stores last year. “Sloane Square was on our radar as an area that we liked, and the space came available more quickly than anticipated,” she said.
A J. Crew spokeswoman said the store would stock the “best of the best” men’s and women’s wear, including cashmere and Ludlow, handbags, accessories and collaborations.
Asked about the performance so far of the other London J. Crew stores, Lyons said the Brompton Road unit in South Kensington was catering to a local customer, while the Regent Street flagship was seeing strong traffic, especially from tourists in places including Hong Kong. J. Crew has a third store, a small men’s unit, on Lamb’s Conduit Street.
She said the company was able to measure the uptick in store and online traffic as a result of the brand’s magalogue, which is distributed via U.K. newspapers.
The prices at J. Crew in the U.K. are higher than those in the U.S., and Lyons said the brand has “done a lot of work to educate the sales staff about what’s at play” so they can speak to inquiring customers.
“There is always a dialogue about price: There are import taxes and duties, and the higher cost of doing business in London. But it’s not our game to inflate prices for no reason. We want our customers to feel comfortable, and for them to know that we are a trustworthy company,” Lyons said.
The living wall for bees is part of J. Crew’s larger Garments for Good initiative, which sees 100 percent of profits on special merchandise, such as T-shirts, donated to various charities.
For the Sloane Square opening, J. Crew has collaborated with the illustrator Emma Smith to create T-shirts with four bee designs for men, women and children that will go on sale in September, at stores in London, online and internationally, but not in the U.S.
The brand will also distribute pesticide-free seed paper packets to all customers from now until the end of the year. It also plans to stock “The Bee Who Spoke” children’s book, local honey from the Regent’s Park Honey Co. and Christmas ornaments, also designed by Emma Smith, at the store.
Lyons will be traveling to Hong Kong over the next few weeks, where J. Crew plans to open men’s and women’s stores later this year.