J. Crew Group is no longer cutting Crewcuts short.

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The first Crewcuts catalogue, a compact, 39-page book selling sizes two to 12, started getting distributed last weekend around the country.

“We have never done a Crewcuts catalogue before. It’s been a very well-kept secret,” said Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman and chief executive of J. Crew. “This is really about letting more people know. We’ve been in the Crewcuts business for three years and we have very few stores. It’s time to get out there and talk about it.”

Asked if children’s wear generally is underplayed in the industry, Drexler replied: “I don’t think so. I don’t think in any category these days there is not enough choice. But we felt there is not enough choice at a more styled, J. Crew-like level and that we wanted to step it up a notch or two and still give the style and still give the value….I don’t think it will be the biggest volume-generator in the world. For us, it’s a niche business. How big will it get? I don’t know. I don’t care about being the biggest. I only care about being the best.”

Drexler said he sees Crewcuts evolving primarily as an online and catalogue business. There are only seven Crewcuts stores and 43 Crewcuts departments inside J. Crew stores. Two Crewcuts stores are set to open next week in University Village in Seattle, and in August on Madison Avenue and 87th Street in New York. The average store has just over 1,500 square feet, while shop-in-shops average a bit more than 1,000 square feet. Another book for back-to-school is in the works.

“Strategically, we have decided we are going to be more ambitious in our online and catalogue Crewcuts business than in our store business,” Drexler said.

“When people see a catalogue at home, the site performance goes up for sure,” added Jenna Lyons, creative director. “They like to dog ear the pages. When they call the Lynchburg facility [call center], they have the catalogue in their hands.”

Lyons said the best response so far has been to hand-drawn or hand-embroidered “art Ts,” knit dresses and jewelry. Also, hand-painted tennis shoes “basically sold out, but they’re more fun items rather than key items.”

Crewcuts got a lift when the Obama children were seen wearing Crewcuts, but Lyons couldn’t say how often they wear the label.

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