J. Crew Lost Focus on Its Affluent Customer and Learned a Painful Lesson

CEO Mickey Drexler learns “Customer is always right” after “lousy year”

You have to feel a bit sorry for J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler. After all, fashion is all about change and keeping on the cutting edge. But when J. Crew tried to do that, changing its cuts and styles to appear more trendy and less traditionally preppy, the brand fell flat. According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, last year the brand’s sales stagnated at $621 million. “I don’t think J. Crew women’s looked like J. Crew women’s as much as it could have, nor do I think that we marketed it and messaged it as well as we could have,” Drexler was quoted as saying.

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Affluent fashion customer will stray when a brand like J. Crew doesn’t deliver the expected

Drexler may be among the first to realize that his approach to marketing isn’t working, but he certainly won’t be the last. According to proprietary research from Unity Marketing, shopping at leading fashion boutique brands, including names like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J. Crew, is off from 54% in 2010 to just 36 percent of affluents in 2014. This shows that affluent fashion customers are shopping in new ways, widening their brand choices, and meeting their fashion needs across a broader range of stores, including e-tailers. Net/Net: The once loyal fashion customer is more than willing to buy elsewhere to find the right combination of style, fabrication, price and convenience. When a reliable brand like J. Crew strays from its core, its customer is more than willing to stray from the brand. The leading fashion brands like J. Crew, not typically thought of as a ‘luxury brand,’ depend upon the greater spending power of the affluent shopper – particularly ultra-affluents earning more than $250K per year. The high-earning affluents are the only segment of the economy with enough reliable purchasing power to regularly make purchases from fashion boutique brands. These brands must understand the wants and needs of their target affluent customer, because just one year like J. Crew had can be enough to topple a company.

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Understand Your Customer, Understand Your Market

In my years leading Unity Marketing, I’ve found that many CEOs gather marketing research data, but they don’t know what to do with it. The reality is, companies need help understanding the implications of the data and what they can do with it.

For example, Unity Marketing regularly gathers data about where affluent consumers shop for clothing and fashion accessories, what brands they buy, how much they spend, and how their behavior varies across demographic categories like age, gender, and income. With our help, companies can take this data and carefully target their most important customers. We work in partnership with our customers to help translate the data into actionable business strategies.

Unity Marketing offers a variety of market research and consulting services that will help marketing brands develop luxury-targeted strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with the affluent customers.

  • Get started: Unity Marketing’s vast library of syndicated market research studies provide a low-cost ways for marketers to gain reliable data and customer insights about specific consumer markets. And with Unity Marketing’s focus on the affluent consumer segment, you will be assured insights that apply to the best customer prospects for your category whether you are selling to the masses or the ‘classes.’ Download a free white paper explaining the five key trends marketers face in 2015 targeting the affluent consumer segment.
  • Design a customer insight strategy: Consumer insights aren’t a “once and done” effort; it takes on-going efforts to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences. Unity Marketing offers the Affluent Consumer Tracking Study which gives marketers at the high-end of the market data about their customers buying behavior and consumer confidence and attitudes twice a year. We also offer marketers a ‘lite’ subscription to the clothing or fashion accessories category if they need to track only this one product segment.
  • Deliver the products & services your customers expect: With experience in both collecting and using market research information and insights, Unity Marketing can help you not just in gathering consumer insights, but uncovering the nuggets that will yield the best return to marketers in strategies and tactics.Call Pam at (717) 336-1600 or go and fill out the form on the Contact page for a confidential discussion of where the gaps are in your customer understanding and how Unity Marketing can bridge the gaps.

J. Crew didn’t contact Unity Marketing for help, and they had a “lousy year.” We can help your brand avoid the same fate.

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