The opening of the first UK J Crew store this week will generate a lot of interest thanks to a well thought-through awareness campaign. 

The opening of the first UK J Crew store this week will generate a lot of interest thanks to a well thought-through awareness campaign. 

Last week, one of the most popular stories on Retail-week.com and certainly the most commented on concerned a new-look Sainsbury’s Local store in the Surrey commuter village of Cobham. On the face of it, this is a little surprising. Cobham is pleasant, but unremarkable, and a new convenience store should not perhaps garner the sort of response normally reserved for commentary about a retailer doing either very well or very badly.

What it does show is that retailers and those looking at retail are intensely interested in anything that is different from what has been around before and will consume news about it avidly. One of this week’s highlights, therefore, is likely to be the opening of the first of a trio of J Crew fashion stores.

In truth, J Crew, the US fashion phenomenon, has handled the run-up to the first of its openings in an interesting manner.  The easiest thing to do would have been to take a prominent site on Regent Street (which it has done) and then make much of it (which it is in the process of doing).

But J Crew has added to the mix by opting to hive off its men’s collection to a much smaller site on Lamb’s Conduit Street, where it will be able to rub shoulders with several men’s fashion indies and to imbue the brand with semi-cult status. Now couple this with the fact that we have been aware of J Crew for several months now, thanks to a pop-up store that it opened at St Martin’s art college at Kings Cross, and you have what looks like a highly focused strategy.

In truth, effecting new market entry is a very different animal from altering that which is already well-established – as with Sainsbury’s in Cobham. For its UK debut, J Crew has taken a solidly traditional and at the same time a vaguely counter-culture approach to letting people know about its arrival. Horses for courses perhaps, but it seems very probable that it will feature as one of the most-read stories when it flings wide its doors on October 10.

Oh yes, and perhaps Mickey Drexler, the US retail general and J Crew boss, may refer to it when he appears at this week’s World Retail Congress.