Three lessons from US apparel retailer J.Crew

US apparel brand J.Crew has opened its online store to Australian and Asian consumers as it perseveres with its global expansion, suggesting retail start-ups can learn from the business’ success.


Founded in 1983 and based in New York, J.Crew offers an assortment of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel and accessories.


From today, the company will ship direct to consumers in Australia and New Zealand, and key Asian markets including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.


“We are on a mission to provide customers around the world with the best of the best,” J.Crew Group chairman and chief executive Millard Drexler said.


“We have created an experience that is equally as rich online as in-store.”


StartupSmart identifies three key strategies that are generating results for J.Crew:


1. Secure a key partnership


Overnight, J.Crew has expanded its international distribution from 29 to 107 countries, spanning more than 40 currencies. But how did it happen? It used a platform provided by FiftyOne.


Also based in New York, FiftyOne operates a technology and services platform that enables US retailers with international ambition to transact with consumers in more than 90 countries.


Traditionally, retailers have to attack new countries sequentially. FiftyOne’s platform has allowed J.Crew to open the floodgates immediately, without leaving American shores.


2. Have a timeless offering


Rather than commit itself to the latest fashion trends à la Spanish fashion house Zara, J.Crew has gained international attention for its quality and timeless designs.


From its partnerships with European mills and fabric houses to its renowned Italian cashmere and tailored Ludlow suiting, the company has built a strong and fiercely loyal following.


J.Crew’s classic pieces have caught the eye of several high-profile people, including US First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been described as “the best thing that ever happened to J.Crew”.


3. Make it special


To celebrate its global launch, J.Crew will be offering its international customers – those outside of North America – an introductory offer including free shipping and returns.


There will also be duty-free shopping for a limited time.


J.Crew has 265 stores in the US and one in Canada. It plans to open stores in Asia and Europe over the next few years, but only in selected markets, thus maintaining that “special” element among international consumers.


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