In Brief

James Brett has been working to revive sales at the struggling merchant by cutting prices and adding larger sizes and more fits, currently debuting a Mercantile shop on the nation's biggest online store to further broaden the tony brand's appeal

J. Crew’s remarkable discount make-under has reached a symbolic milestone: Its partnering with Amazon, the poster child of bargain goods.

J. Crew Mercantile, its off-price spin-off brand, will bow on the site with its own storefront, marking the decisive imprint of CEO James Brett, who in June 2017 replaced the struggling apparel brand’s longtime leader and iconic merchant Mickey Drexler.

Since then, Brett, who was president of Pottery Barn’s lower priced offshoot West Elm when J. Crew came calling, has been on a mission to knock J. Crew off its lofty, pricey, preppy-meets-sequins perch.

The retailer’s high-end heyday seemed to reach its apex around 2010 under the creative direction of Jenna Lyons, when Michelle Obama was turning up at events sporting J. Crew duds.

The then-president brought hipster glamour to the upscale preppy brand, earning her a following as a taste maker among J. Crew devotees, with the retailer promoting her must-have pieces in magazine-style spreads on its website as, “Jenna’s Picks,” like $110 eyelet tops.

But consumers increasingly started to flock to fast-fashion retailers like H&M and off-price chains such as T.J. Maxx. And by April 2017, J. Crew’s sales had plummeted, it landed on Moody’s list of most distressed retailers, and Lyons was ousted.

Brett has been redefining the brand ever since to reach a wider audience by expanding J. Crew’s merchandise with more entry-level prices while adding additional plus sizes and fit options. J.Crew’s classic T-shirts now start at $14.50, compared with $29.50 in 2017.

The retailer calls its first-ever Amazon partnership a “natural extension” of J. Crew’s mission to be where people are shopping. Indeed they are: Amazon is expected to be the number one apparel retailer in the U.S. this year, according to Morgan Stanley estiimates.

A decade ago J. Crew, like many brands with upscale pedigree, would have turned its nose up at the notion of selling on Amazon. Now it’s courting it. “Their broad-reaching shopping destination supported by our shared interest in service and convenience will introduce the initial collection of colorful everyday basics and fashion to a new audience,” said Aaron Rose, J.Crew’s chief of emerging business, in a press release.

Brett told the Wall Street Journal last month: “We’re not Gucci.”

J.Crew

J. Crew’s remarkable discount make-under has reached a symbolic milestone: Its partnering with Amazon, the poster child of bargain goods.

J. Crew Mercantile, its off-price spin-off brand, will bow on the site with its own storefront, marking the decisive imprint of CEO James Brett, who in June 2017 replaced the struggling apparel brand’s longtime leader and iconic merchant Mickey Drexler.

Since then, Brett, who was president of Pottery Barn’s lower priced offshoot West Elm when J. Crew came calling, has been on a mission to knock J. Crew off its lofty, pricey, preppy-meets-sequins perch.