Tuesday, March 22, 2016

over the outlet

Retail confession: I have a love/hate relationship with outlets.  Who doesn't love a bargain, though?  And many times, a brand's outlet store is your "last chance" to buy that one piece from last season that you passed up and simply can't get out of your head.  Other than any price savings or last-ditch-effort to procure something you didn't buy and you've been kicking yourself for months over, the hate comes flooding down.  Outlets are typically staffed with associates who lack product knowledge and brand heritage, let alone any initiative to actually help you find something, keep the store tidy and organized, or prevent the place from mimicking more of a garage sale and less of an actual place of business.
With that being said, I'm pleasantly surprised with J.Crew's Mercantile concept.  Imagine taking a typical J.Crew store, staffing it with the expected happy-go-lucky and uber trendy/preppy college crowd, merchandising the store beautifully with props from Martha's Vineyard to Montauk - but the surprising twist - all the merchandise is from the "factory outlet", cleverly disguised as the "Mercantile" - and the prices match, to boot! 
CEO Mickey Drexler is absolutely brilliant.  The economy is slowly allowing a bit of extra spending money, but customers are a little wiser with their money and much more budget conscious, for all spending abilities.  Instead of hoping customers will trek to the outskirts of town on a wild goose chase for a bargain, why not bring a beautiful store to the customers' neighborhoods, construct it just like the full service / full price boutiques they know and love, but supply it with more inexpensive wears, while treating them like their higher-end siblings.
I visited my first J.Crew Mercantile in Charlotte.  It was organized, well stocked, staffed with energetic associates eager to assist, and was beautifully merchandised.  I left inspired, excited, and with a few unexpected purchases. 

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