We shopped at J.Crew and Madewell and saw why one brand is thriving as the other struggles

J.Crew is struggling to catch up to its sister store Madewell.

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J.Crew is struggling to catch up to its sister store Madewell.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • J.Crew is being outshined by its sister store Madewell.
  • In the third quarter, comparable sales were up 4% at J.Crew and 22% at Madewell.
  • J.Crew has been in the process of rebranding its stores, ditching its preppy roots for the more timeless styles at Madewell.
  • We visited neighboring locations of J.Crew and Madewell, and saw why Madewell is thriving as J.Crew struggles to catch up.

J.Crew is being outshined by its sister store Madewell.

On November 29, J.Crew reported comparable sales were up 4% in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Madewell’s comparable sales were up 22%. Prior to the second quarter, J.Crew sales had slipped for three consecutive years.

Part of why the brand has consistently struggled is that some customers see it as overpriced, generic, and even “wannabe trendy.” Former J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons left in early 2017 and was followed by longtime CEO Mickey Drexler. In late November, CEO James Brett stepped down after just 17 months.

In September, J.Crew began ditching its preppy roots and redefining itself in an effort to win back customers by branching out beyond its iconic preppy style and offering a wider variety of styles and sizes.

It’s also looking to its more successful sister brand, Madewell, for inspiration, adding products like sweaters with French slogans and high-waisted denim pieces that are more likely to be found at Madewell.

Madewell has been so successful because it knows its customer and doesn’t jump on fast-fashion trends. Its focus is on good-quality, longer-lasting clothing, which have a lower price point than at J.Crew. However, when we visited both stores, the prices were about the same.

We shopped at both J.Crew and Madewell, and saw why Madewell is doing so much better:


We went to J.Crew first.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In the window was a 50% off sale styles sign.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The front of the store had a few cardigans and blouses on display, most of which were 25% off.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In the fall, J.Crew announced it would be rebranding, leaving its preppy roots behind.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

But that didn’t seem to be the case when we visited. There were plenty of preppy styles throughout the store.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The quality wasn’t as high as I would have expected it to be, considering the high prices.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Crewnecks and hoodies cost $70…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and sweaters started at $98.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The least expensive products in the store started around $50.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store only had a few sizes for each style, but offered more online.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

J.Crew also carried a little bit of jewelry…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… shoes…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and a few small products like candles and face masks.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was a denim shop in the back of the store, but most of the styles seemed pretty similar.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In the back was a kid’s section…

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

…and a men’s store was attached.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The men’s store was also pretty expensive. These sweaters cost just over $60.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Overall, the store seemed to still be very preppy and pricey.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Madewell was directly across from J.Crew.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The inside was much brighter and more welcoming than J.Crew.

J.Crew is struggling to catch up to its sister store Madewell.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The prices weren’t any less expensive than J.Crew, but it wasn’t as preppy.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Most products were 40% off.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The colors and patterns were much quieter at Madewell.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Overall, the clothes were more timeless at Madewell. Part of its success is because it doesn’t immediately jump on fast fashion trends, and it shows. Most of the styles were very simple.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It also carried a much bigger selection of jewelry,

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Madewell carried a lot of smaller products like candles, water bottles, games, greeting cards, and so on. It had a lot more to offer than J.Crew.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It also sold beauty products, which J.Crew didn’t. However, Madewell did not have a kid’s section or a men’s section.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The back of the store had accessories and shoes…

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Business Insider//Jessica Tyler

… and a wall of sale products.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

If you couldn’t find what you were looking for in store, there was a huge screen on the wall that allows you to order online without leaving the store, offering free two-day shipping as an incentive to do so.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though Madewell was just as expensive as J.Crew, the styles and quality were better at Madewell, and the store had more to offer. It’s clear why Madewell is overshadowing J.Crew.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler