J.CREW GOES AFTER THE YOUNGER SET
Byline: Melanie Kletter
NEW YORK — J.Crew is jumping into the burgeoning children’s and preteen market with the debut of its first kids’ catalog, scheduled to ship later this month.
The multichannel retailer has tested some girls’ and boys’ merchandise on its Web site and in some stores this spring, but back-to-school marks its first significant entrance into this hot category.
“J.Crew Kid is a natural extension of the brand, and it puts us in front of a completely new customer,” said Mark Savary, J.Crew’s chief executive officer.
“Kids today are very savvy and they know what they want,” noted Scott Formby, the company’s executive vice president of design. “From our tests, we have found that there is a lot of interest in our products.”
The catalog, which will at first be a separate catalog placed inside the adult books, includes a wide range of merchandise for boys and girls, including dresses, outerwear, accessories and underwear.
The merchandise targets children ages six to 12, and is similar in styling to what J.Crew sells for its core adult customers. Many of its signature pieces, such as roll-necked sweaters and khakis, can be found in the children’s catalog. Among other items offered are hooded sweater cardigans, stretch corduroy skirts and denim pieces.
The line also includes more fashion-forward pieces such as stretch items, logo T-shirts and a baseball jersey with an embroidered flower and is overall more “streetwear inspired,” said Formby. Prices for the line range from about $18 for T-shirts to $128 for a leather bomber jacket.
A second catalog will ship for holiday, and the company also plans to add children’s merchandise to all its stores.
Two designers have been hired to oversee the launch of this business. Newspaper ads and an e-mail campaign also are planned.
There are a handful of catalogs that cater to young shoppers, such as Delia’s and Alloy, but, Formby said, the firm views its competition more along the lines of GapKids, which sells fashion basics and some novelty items.
He noted that the company decided to enter children’s and not teen apparel because it feels that its merchandise is more suited for the preteen age group.
“We are not sure how J.Crew would translate into juniors and that was not a business we wanted to be in,” he said. “It makes more sense for us to be in this market.”
J.Crew is best known for its catalogs — it now ships about 24 a year — but has also widened its focus by penetrating the Internet and increasing its retail stores, of which there are 112. In the year ended Feb. 3, sales rose 10 percent, to $826 million, while earnings were $11.9 million, versus a $6.6 million loss last year.