HONG KONG — J. Crew is opening two stores in the city this week, the retailer’s first standalone stores in the Asia Pacific.
The stores, both located in Hong Kong’s Central district, are separate men’s and women’s units. The women’s shop, located on the ground floor of IFC mall, is 3,252 square feet and offers a selection from J. Crew Collection along with more basic T-shirts and shorts plus Point Sur denim, jewelry, accessories and shoes. The men’s shop, located a few blocks away on On Lan Street, is 2,816 square feet spread over three floors. It includes a full range of J. Crew’s Ludlow suits plus Wallace & Barnes denim as well as sneakers and shoes. Both stores will offer a VIP program with special services such as home or office delivery, monogramming, alterations and stylist appointments.
Millard “Mickey” Drexler, J. Crew’s chief executive, fresh off the plane and in town to celebrate the openings, said the separate men’s and women’s shops came about because of the small retail spaces in the city. The IFC location (formerly a McDonald’s) became available first but it wasn’t quite large enough to “do justice” to a combined men’s and women’s store. It all turned out for the best, said Drexler, as “I think guys like shopping in their own environment.”
J. Crew’s men’s shops have all been “incredibly successful,” plus “we’re told in Hong Kong that men love to shop,” Drexler said, noting that J. Crew’s men’s wear sales in Hong Kong through its Lane Crawford partnership have been higher as a percentage of total sales than in the U.S.
Relatively late to international expansion, J. Crew has been selling its apparel at six Lane Crawford stores in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2012. Online sales through jcrew.com have also been a large part of the retailer’s Asia sales.
Like at Lane Crawford, J. Crew’s mix of merchandise at its standalone stores in Hong Kong skew toward the higher end of the price range, with a heavy emphasis on Collection pieces.
“It’s more reflective of what you would find of some of our New York stores or stores that are geared toward Collection products,” said Jenna Lyons, the firm’s president and executive creative director. Both Lyons and Drexler emphasized that there is a mix of both high and lower priced items. Prices range from $35 to $1,200, Drexler said.
Prices in Hong Kong skew higher than in the U.S., he acknowledged, but “I don’t know where that’s not the case. It’s just the cost of doing business, currencies and all. We are no higher or lower relatively speaking than all the other competitors out there. For some reason, people talk about it,” the ceo said.
Other than the prices, the store’s look and selection are similar to those in the U.S. While some retailers have found it useful to introduce exclusive pieces or specific collections for the region, J. Crew hasn’t found that necessary.
Launching with Lane Crawford “gave us a lot of insight into who the customer wasn’t and what he or she was looking for and interesting enough though we’d been told by many people that we might need to do a special product and the fact is that it’s been the exact opposite for us,” said Lyons.
“I think our clothes speak a common language worldwide. It’s about design, style and quality,” said Drexler.
J. Crew opened its first store outside the U.S. in 2011, in Canada. Since then, the retailer has expanded to more than 100 countries through jcrew.com, opened three stores in the U.K. and sells through its Lane Crawford partnership in Asia. The retailer is also planning a fourth location in the U.K. later this year.
Before Drexler joined J. Crew in 2003, the retailer expanded quite rapidly overseas, at one time operating 65 licensed stores in Japan. The company then pulled back and shuttered the stores. Drexler has said he is taking a slower and more targeted approach to international expansion this time.
For now, Hong Kong is J. Crew’s largest market in Asia. Japan is in the top five. Drexler said he’s looking at more locations in the city but first “wants to see what happens over the next few months here.” The retailer doesn’t have any plans to open elsewhere in the region as of yet.
The stores’ official opening is this Thursday.