J.Crew shuts UK stores, opts for online focus
J.Crew recently emerged from bankruptcy protection and outlined its new strategy but it’s become clear that this new strategy doesn't include the UK – at least as far as physical shops are concerned. The company is closing all six of its UK locations, including the massive flagship on Regent Street, calling in liquidators to its British operation.
FRP advisory has been appointed as liquidator to the UK business that employs almost 80 people and has a head office in London.
More and more companies are taking the decision to close physical locations in markets where they don't have a large number of shops, given that they can still serve those markets because of their well-developed online retail operations, and this is the case for J.Crew.
A company spokesperson said: “After a thorough review, we have determined we are best able to serve our UK customers through our global e-commerce platform and are closing our six store locations in the country. We thank our UK associates for their dedication during this unprecedented time and are working to support their transition.”
It’s yet another example of how far the once high-flying and expanding label has fallen in recent years. The company had been struggling for some time, but the pandemic set the seal on its UK exit.
The retailer opened its Regent Street flagship in 2013, adding several more shops, and was also available in the UK through John Lewis, although the deal between the two was terminated in 2019.
Other American businesses that have put their UK arms into administration include Forever 21 and Victoria's Secret, the latter of which has recently entered a joint-venture deal in which Next is now the majority owner and operator. Gap also withdrew its Banana Republic chain from Britain and American Eagle pulled out of the country as well.
Both of those closures happened before the pandemic, but the lockdown and the ongoing reluctance of many UK shoppers to go into physical spaces has made the UK a much less attractive destination for American companies. It could be argued that Brexit is also having an impact as the UK used to be seen as a first step into the EU. But its exit from the massive trading bloc has undermined that status. Its plan to end tax-free shopping for tourists could further dent its appeal.
The UK market has proved particularly problematic for premium-priced American brands going back several decades and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
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