February 16, 2010

J. Crew to Open Fourth Men's Store

:: image source: J. Crew by way of ACL ::

This morning, by way of WWD and Alexis over at JCA -- the blog that consistently caters to all things pertinent/relevant to J. Crew (I love it) -- I learned that J. Crew will be opening a fourth men's-only outpost.

How exciting! Sort of.

The new store will be located on 79th & Madison.

Wait. Why does that sound familiar? Oh yea, doesn't J. Crew already have a women's-only sister store sitting on Madison Ave. at that very same cross-street?

The men's store will be located across the street from the pre-existing women's store.

From a business perspective, it's no surprise that women can be a big drive in sales of men's clothing. So...with the Liquor Store already in place, and a second Manhattan men's store on Broadway in Soho, my two questions are this:

1. Does the retail landscape of Manhattan need another J. Crew men's shop?

2. Is Manhattan the only location that can support these forward-thinking gender-specific stores?

I think the Liquor Store is a great hit. In essence, here is the company's lab in which it gets to experiment and establish the direction and taste that, in an ideal world would set the standard for how it runs its men's business nation-wide. Ideally, the company would regard the Liquor Store as the poster-child of its men's business. I use these italicized modifiers because men's style and discernment appear to drop off exponentially as you inch farther and farther away from NYC. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see the discrepancy between its normal stores and that of its concept stores.

Now before you chew my head off for making such a blanket statement, let's take the example of the company's men's-only store in Paramus, NJ, at the Garden State Plaza. Opened in Fall of 2008, who's heard anything of it since? On the other hand, the Liquor Store and the Broadway store continue to bring in press. In fact, if you take a look at the online store directory, there's no mention of a men's-only store status for the Paramus location. Perhaps it's because this one is set within a mall, so no free-standing walls, and there's a women's only location to complement the men's. But on the other hand, wouldn't you want to market the special status of this store? Could this be a business move gone wrong that, in essence, is the bastard sibling nobody talks of?

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