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J.Crew Blames Higher Prices & Fashion-Forward Branding for Decline in Sales

* J.Crew CEO explains reasons behind company’s declining sales in interview
* After Jenna Lyons departure, J.Crew aiming to return to approachable fashion
* Company is reportedly $2 billion in debt

J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler is promising a big comeback for the company, in a new interview with the Wall Street Journal. The changes couldn’t come at a better time: in 2016, J.Crew’s sales dropped 6%, totaling $2 million. Reports say the company now is over $2 billion in debt.

According to the CEO, the brand took a new direction—and bumped up their prices–in 2008, unveiling a new luxury line, J.Crew Collection. Unfortunately, the re-branding and higher price points just so happened to coincide with the climax of the great recession.

Former Creative Director, Jenna Lyons, who departed J.Crew in April, became an executive in 2008 and was behind the higher-end collection. J.Crew Collection debuted with unprecedentedly high price points, ranging from $300-$2000 and a splashy retail store in New York City. According to Drexler the move was, “a very big mistake.”

In addition to the higher prices, Drexler also pins the blame on the shift in art direction and branding strategy. “We gave a perception of being a higher-priced company than we were — in our catalog, online, and in our general presentation,” Drexler told the Journal.

Under Lyons, the brand took a more fashion-forward stance, with more editorial-style catalogs and presentations for new collections at New York Fashion week. Lyons is often credited with reviving the brand from preppy and collegiate to fashion forward and “cool.” But apparently, this was the wrong move in retrospect, says the CEO. “We became a little too elitist in our attitude,” Drexler said.

Drexler however, hasn’t lost hope for the prospect of a second renaissance for J.Crew. “We’re getting back to being who we are — much more comfortable, approachable, democratic and friendly,” he says.