J. Crew Group is planting its flag in Hong Kong.
The retailer will open two stores in the city in May, its first locations in Asia-Pacific. “Opening in Hong Kong is an easy decision for us. It’s one of the world’s greatest cities with great energy and great appreciation of style, design and creativity,” said Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman and chief executive officer of J. Crew Group Inc.
These two locations follow J. Crew’s three openings in the U.K. in the fall, and just last week, a J. Crew Collection women’s store that includes a men’s shop carrying Ludlow’s men’s suits opened in Toronto at 110 Bloor Street West. The store is J. Crew’s 10th location in Canada, and fifth in Toronto. All of J. Crew’s freestanding stores are company-owned, domestic and abroad.
In Hong Kong, a 3,200-square-foot J. Crew Collection women’s store will open in the International Finance Centre, also known as the IFC mall. It will feature a “carefully edited selection of the most exclusive and special fabrics and prints, limited-edition designs, Italian cashmere and a dedicated shoe and handbag salon,” the company said.
The retailer will also open a 2,100-square-foot men’s store on a street called On Lan Street in the Central neighborhood of Hong Kong. The shop will offer the full collection of Ludlow suits, shirtings and shoes alongside items from J. Crew’s In Good Company collection of brands selected by the design team, including Ebbets Field Flannels, Barbour, New Balance and Vans.
Drexler has been on the road, often continuing to explore other countries around the world, but he’s emphasized that there’s no aggressive international rollout in the works, and that there’s no rush to build up the overseas store count.
J. Crew is viewed as a Johnny-come-lately to the world of international expansion, but for good reason. Years ago, Drexler felt expansion outside North America was not appropriate for the brand because there was still plenty of work to be done inside J. Crew to bolster the product, pricing and brand positioning, and to develop new concepts such as Madewell, J. Crew Collection and freestanding men’s stores.
It’s been only in the last few years that overseas expansion has been considered a good investment for the company. The process has been a slow, steady progression that began in May 2010 with a partnership with Net-a-porter. J. Crew is sold on the Net-a-porter site, as well as Net-a-porter’s men’s wear site, Mr Porter.
J. Crew’s first international store opened in August 2011, in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. The company launched jcrew.com in more than 100 countries in late March 2012 and J. Crew made its Hong Kong debut in October 2012 with a partnership with Lane Crawford, which carries J. Crew products in six stores and on its Web site.
The international expansion could help drive an initial public offering of J. Crew by owners TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners. Some sources believe an IPO or sale of J. Crew to another private owner could happen as soon as this year.
Aside from the increasing international awareness, interest in taking J. Crew public or selling the business is also being driven by the company’s expansion with its J. Crew and Madewell brands in the U.S., and because TPG and Leonard Green will be going into their fourth year of ownership in March. Typically, private equity has a three- to five-year horizon of ownership.
TPG and Leonard Green took J. Crew private in early 2011 for $2.86 billion.