Friday, January 23, 2009

J.Crew Stumbles On The Obama Effect

Fist bumps must have been going around the J.Crew offices when word surfaced that the First Family wore outfits and accessories from the retailer on Inauguration Day, and at various Inauguration weekend celebrations. First Daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama wore specially made outfits from the Crewcuts for Kids collection to the Inauguration ceremony, while First Lady Michelle Obama wore leather olive green gloves. President Barack Obama sported a white satin bow tie with his tux for the Inaugural Balls.

The NY Daily News reports that J.Crew's website,, shut down for an half hour as people flocked to the site to buy up the outfits. This isn't the first time the Obamas had a positive effect on J.Crew. When First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" wearing a three-piece yellow J. Crew ensemble, searches for the outfit caused their online traffic to increase 64% according to New York magazine.

So, it's puzzling that J.Crew didn't anticipate this type of response, and configure their site to a) be able to handle the traffic and b) offer a user friendly way to access merchandise that is similar to the pieces the Obamas wore, being that outfits and pieces the First Family wore were specially made and currently unavailable for purchase.

On the front page of the J.Crew website, the visitor is greeted with sketches of the outfits, as well as swatch samples. The visitor can "roll over" the images to get more info on the designs, as well as quotes from the designers:

(Photo: J.Crew/

What was missing, however, were links to similar pieces that are being offered on the website. Performing a search for "Obama", "Michelle", "Barack", "Malia" or "Sasha" on the website only takes you back to the front page. It would have been prudent to have those searches lead to actual merchandise. It's great that J.Crew has received so much needed attention, but what's the point if they're not using in a way to generate profit?

However, this has been a good week for J.Crew. Since the Inauguration, the stock price has gone up from a Jan. 20th opening of $9.61 per share to a Jan. 22nd closing of $10.26 per share. Today, shares rose 55 cents to $10.81 during midday trading on analyst upgrade to "Equal Weight". It closed at $10.56 per share, down from an opening price of $10.96.

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