The Margin: The Twitter response to J.Crew filing for bankruptcy has been savage — but it has a point
Many tweets note that the retailer’s problems were terminal long before the coronavirus hit
The unraveling of J.Crew has spun many Twitter threads, from fans mourning the possible end of an iconic American brand to those dancing on the preppy New York label’s grave.
J.Crew Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, saddled with $1.65 billion in debt (which is being converted into equity) and claiming that store closures during the COVID-19 pandemic will cost it $900 million in sales.
The news led J.Crew to top Google
searches and to go viral on Twitter
as one of the first major retail casualties of the coronavirus outbreak that has essentially shut down the U.S. economy.
And, as should be expected, many Twitter users had snarky reactions to the news, including posts mocking the brand’s signature preppy aesthetic, or tweets arguing that the countless small, family-owned businesses which are hanging on by a thread right now should be considered the bigger tragedy.
Still others posted memes about gleefully waiting for potential J.Crew going-out-of-business sales, since they claim that they couldn’t afford the retailer’s clothes otherwise. Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us held liquidation sales when their stores closed in 2018, after all.
But many of the Twitter responses, while humorous and savage, actually have a point.
Several noted that J.Crew’s financial troubles were terminal long before the pandemic struck.
The company barely avoided bankruptcy in 2017 when creative director Jenna Lyons and CEO Mickey Drexler stepped down, even as sales plummeted and debt mounted at that time.
From the MarketWatch archives (June 2017): J.Crew has a new CEO, but that won’t fix its debt problem
In fact, Eric Snyder, a partner at Wilk Auslander and chairman of the firm’s bankruptcy department, told MarketWatch on Monday that “Even if there were no pandemic, it wouldn’t have changed anything.” It also missed the athleisure fashion trend entirely.
Others called out the high prices of many J.Crew pieces at a time when Americans are strapped for cash and turning to more affordable items from fast-fashion retailers like the Inditex-owned
Zara and H&M Hennes and Mauritz
budget-friendly box stores like Walmart
and online sellers such as Amazon
But it’s also not surprising that the retailer’s struggle has inspired so much chatter.
J.Crew has been woven in pop culture since it began rolling out its mail-order catalog collection of preppy chinos, pocket tees and sweaters in the mid-1980s before becoming a shopping-mall staple. And many shoppers bought into its mixing of formal and informal pieces. First Lady Michelle Obama, who became a fashion icon during her husband’s presidential campaign and presidency, frequently dressed herself and her daughters in the brand. “Ladies, we know J.Crew. You can get some good stuff online!” she said while wearing a silk blouse, gold skirt and cardigan on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” in October 2008, for example.
And former J.Crew creative director Lyons became a style icon in her own right with her signature chunky black glasses, and even made a cameo on HBO’s
hit series “Girls” in 2014.
So, many J.Crew fans mourned the downfall of their beloved brand on social media, as well.