• The Sydney Morning Herald/ By Melissa Singer

US brands J.Crew and Madewell are finally coming to Australia

Australian consumers will finally be able to physically shop with US fashion giants J.Crew and Madewell when they launch into David Jones stores next month.

Known for its "classics with a twist" approach to dressing, J.Crew is a bit like an elevated Country Road that also sells bridal gowns. Madewell is J.Crew's cheekier little sister that specialises in weekend wear and denim.

The Australian deal will see J.Crew and Madewell "shop in shops" open in 11 David Jones stores with dedicated sales assistants versed in the company's DNA.

David Jones' general manager of menswear, Chris Wilson, said the brand was a great fit for the "thick middle", where the bulk of its customers like to shop.

"It's a natural fit for us ... We’re excited because it fits into our exclusivity strategy," Mr Wilson said.

As part of the deal, David Jones will become the exclusive Australian stockist of J.Crew for a minimum six months, blocking access to the international .com website. The Iconic, which has carried a small range of J.Crew product since 2018, will cease carrying the brand.

Mr Wilson said David Jones had worked hard with J.Crew's Australian distributor, True Alliance, and the parent company, to ensure local customers are getting as good a deal as if they shopped with the brand overseas.

"The physical and online presence means the customers do a lot of research, and you have to make sure you’re legitimate," he said. To compete with the abundance of online retailers and the ease of shopping they offer, several Australian companies that stock overseas brands, such as Mecca Cosmetica, have implemented a pricing structure that largely follows the formula of "exchange rate plus GST". Mr Wilson said the same would apply to J.Crew, with men's T-shirts around the $40 mark and shirts from $120.

Naturally this makes J.Crew a new competitor to brands owned by David Jones' parent company, Woolworths Holdings, such as Country Road and Trenery. But Mr Wilson is convinced there is a gap in the market for luxury basics, based on how Australian men and women like to shop.

"Every time we decide whether we bring in a brand the first thing you have to ask is, 'Does it add value to your assortment?' You don't want something that cannibalises your other brands," he said.

The Australian "edit" of the brands' vast ranges will focus on basics plus a seasonal assortment of fashion pieces (sorry, no wedding dresses). Mr Wilson said some of the best value women's items were in the $199 cashmere range.

Still, many international brands have come to Australia and failed. Last week department store Debenhams announced it was exiting Melbourne after the UK business went into receivership. It follows the failure of GAP and Topshop, which collapsed due to poor sales and poor service to the Australian market (Topshop is now available online via The Iconic).

Mr Wilson is confident that J.Crew will succeed where others have failed.

"You learn a lot when you watch the market," he said. "We see this as a long term brand in our portfolio."

David Jones will preview its summer range on August 8 in Sydney, followed by an event for 1000 customers to launch its revamped Sydney store in September. In February, its chief executive, David Thomas, stepped down. A replacement is yet to be announced.


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