08 November 2013

J. Crew Chagrin II

Anticipation really is the purest form of pleasure when it comes to J. Crew's UK d├ębut, it seems. After waiting for more than a decade for J. Crew to open up a London store, today marked the public opening of the brand's Regent Street flagship. Maybe chagrin isn't quite the right adjective to describe my reaction; mild disappointment, but unsurprising is perhaps more accurate.

I went to the new store, which is just opposite Anthropologie, after work with a fellow J. Crew fan in the hope that there might be, say, drinks, nibbles or even a discount to mark this long-awaited occasion, but sadly not. The launch party, it seems, was on Wednesday night, but we weren't invited.

They have a great space and the windows looked lovely, and there were some nice design pieces and a few British touches throughout the store, including phone booths and gold tinsel Beefeater hats. Because, well...

And the store was pretty busy for a November evening with the typically British weather (i.e. heavy rain) not seeming to put off the punters. We wandered around the women's section on the ground floor, which included the Chamber of Cashmere, the higher-end sparkly jewellery, the statement pieces and a small number of more reasonably priced items.

NB: The old boots aren't actually for sale. Probably.

Upstairs, you can find the shoes and bag section, workwear and another small room with jeans, tees and sweaters. The prices, as portended by the J. Crew UK website and by the pop-up in King's Cross this summer, aren't cheap. Most things seem to be about pounds-for-dollars, but the other problem is that the store seems to be stocked mainly with items from the more expensive range of the spectrum. They are clearly trying to position themselves at the designer end of the market. Sadly, there was no sale section and they weren't even doing any special offers — 20% off sweaters, for instance. Also missing was the usual table near the tills with a whole host of cute, colourful and cheap accessories — hair ties, iPhone covers, nail varnishes and so on.

The Chamber of Cashmere. So many pretty colours.

I didn't want to leave empty-handed, but there wasn't anything I really wanted. I was tempted by a soft, neon-coral t-shirt, but it was £30. There were some cute boots, but they weren't £300 cute. I might have bought a black, wool miniskirt but, as is often the case in US J. Crew stores, there were no small sizes left, and when I bought effectively the same skirt in grey two years ago, it cost $88, so it would have felt rather galling to hand over £98. Some of the items on offer in the kids' section seemed a lot more 'me', particularly the grey sweater with the neon pink heart. 

To be fair, my last trip to J. Crew in New York last month was mostly unsuccessful too and I do usually enjoy shopping there more in the winter and spring-summer seasons than in autumn. Equally, one can but hope that there will, in time, be sales and promotions in the store. And at the very least, the bricks-and-mortar store means that if I really want an item, I can try it on in store and then wait for a sale or discount online and order it that way. After such a long wait, though, it's just a shame the UK launch wasn't more auspicious.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous18:42

    thanks for posting this. I live in the US but love London and J.crew and am so curious how the brand is going to do physically in the UK. I appreciate your perspective and real life opinion. I hope you find cost efficient treasures in the store as time goes on. I am sure J.crew will also have to respond to these price issues as well in order to survive across the pond. Have a good day.