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Retailer in comeback to ‘test the waters’
2014-05-23, Li Tao

While most brand name fashion retailers would not hesitate to tap the business of the burgeoning wealthy middle-class and vast population on the Chinese mainland, American fashion brand J. Crew is not one of them, preferring a cautious approach, at least for now.

“We have no plans for the Chinese mainland in the very near future,” Chief Executive Officer Millard “Mickey” Drexler said on Wednesday ahead of its new stores opening in Hong Kong this week.

J. Crew unveiled two new stores — for men’s only and a for women’s only unit — in the city on Thursday. The two stores mark the retailer’s return to the Asia Pacific Region after it pulled its business out of Japan in 2008.

“We don’t know much about it (the Chinese mainland). Maybe we are being conservative, but we are very comfortable to being here (Hong Kong) first,” Drexler told China Daily.

Operating more than 400 retail stores throughout the United States, the New York-based fashion retailer, however, acted obtusely on overseas expansion in comparison to its vast domestic operations.

The company currently has no presence in continental Europe. Earlier reports indicated that the Hong Kong stores’ opening are part of its plan to tap the overseas market in 2014, including one more in London (its fourth in the UK),  and some four more in Canada.

J. Crew regards Hong Kong as the best next move in Asia as people in the city love higher quality, style and design, and the city is known for its good services and appealing stores — all the factors that most fashion brands would long for, Drexler said. Hong Kong is “anyone’s top five list of cities” to trade in, the J. Crew CEO said. It is a very sophisticated and wealthy city where millions of people live and millions come to visit, according to Drexler, who also expects a large number of clients visiting his two local stores to be international customers from around the world. 

J. Crew’s opening of the Hong Kong stores would deem to be a “testing-the-water approach” towards the mainland market as Drexler admitted that the visits of mainland tourists to his stores will enable the group to learn how to better service them. J. Crew is also likely to open another store next year in Harbour City, which attracts many mainland tourists, he said.

Drexler said the company has been looking for opportunities as well as for sites in major cities on the mainland. “Most likely we will go to Shanghai first,” he said. However, there’s no timetable for it yet but, hopefully, the first store will open on the mainland in the next couple of years, he added.

 

Contact the writer at litao@chinadailyhk.com


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