J.Crew blames its sales slump on a missing cardigan

Something is amiss.
Something is amiss.
Image: Getty Images/Jemal Countess
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J.Crew shared more news of falling sales with its quarterly earnings report yesterday (June 4), and it seems sweaters are to blame.

A first-quarter cardigan miss

“We didn’t have the right cardigan,” said J.Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler, on an earnings call. In the first quarter, sales at the company’s flagship brand fell 5% year-over-year, to $508.7 million. “We had a cardigan, but it didn’t fit that well.”

Presumably the chain had several cardigans available, so naturally I wondered whether Drexler was referring to a specific style when he said J.Crew didn’t have the right cardigan.

Drexler dropped some hints as he elaborated on the company’s misses, referring to knitwear—cardis and beyond—by specific style names.

“We missed the following in sweaters: Perfect Cardigan; the Tippi, we didn’t buy enough; we made a big mistake in the Tilly, Perfect V and the Perfect Crewneck—we had a Perfect Crew and it sold out early,” Drexler said.

“We bought too much of the Tilly, which was a relative of the Tippi.”

I can tell you from experience that J.Crew customers are rabid about classic styles such as Tippi and her relatives. The company resurrected a discontinued swimsuit after I publicly begged for it, so naturally I’m curious how it came to be let down by a cardigan.

But which cardigan was it?

I’ve asked J.Crew that very question and will update this post if I get an answer. For now, we’ll have to speculate.

I’m pretty sure the “Perfect Cardigan” Drexler referred to on the call is made of the fine, ribbed cotton the company uses for its “perfect tees.” So even though its button-up style technically makes it a cardigan, it doesn’t feel like one people would shop for in the months that make up the northern hemisphere’s chilly first quarter. (That said, it’s sold out on the company’s website.) It’s also possible Drexler was speaking about a “perfect cardigan” in the abstract, but this seems unlikely for the CEO of a company that frequently names products perfect.

Next, we have the Tippi, which Drexler clearly said was understocked. However, the Tippi comes in both a cardigan and a crewneck style. Would he have added the word “cardigan” to the name, as the website does, if that was the sweater he was referring to? I don’t know. Again, I’ll update this post if I hear from J.Crew.

We know it wasn’t the Tippi’s cropped relative, the Tilly, because Drexler said they bought too many, not too few, of that one. Sorry, Tilly. (If you like it, now is a good time to get it on sale.)

The Tippi seems a likely culprit for the missed cardigan opportunity, but a quick look at J.Crew’s site shows plenty of colors in stock. Maybe it altered the fit of the classic style, as one commenter suggested?

Again, I don’t know.

But I, too, have been in the market for a new cardigan—and would have happily purchased it from J.Crew had the right one appeared there. For me, all the aforementioned sweaters are too flimsy. I know a fine-knit sweater can look polished for the office, but I prefer mine with a bit of heft. I love a chunky cotton summer sweater, so I pre-ordered the pink pullover Ryan Roche designed for J.Crew. But I’m still holding out for the right cardigan.