The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global economy. With consumer behavior changing by the minute, many retailers have been forced to reassess the long-term viability of their business — or lack thereof. On Monday, J. Crew filed for bankruptcy protection, a move that suggests the retail industry can expect to see more volatility in the weeks and months to come.
According to The New York Times, it’s “the first major retailer to fall during the coronavirus pandemic,” and industry experts anticipate that it won’t be the last. The Times reports that Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney are two other big-name retailers currently grappling with the economic effects of the pandemic.
The once dominant outfitter built up a loyal following throughout the 1980s and ‘90s via its aspirational catalogues, which promoted a preppy-yet-carefree lifestyle. First Lady Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle are among the brand’s most recognizable fans, with both women frequently incorporating affordable J. Crew pieces into their designer wardrobes.
In a message to customers, J. Crew announced the bankruptcy news and said that it intends to remain “fully operational” despite these developments.
“What is important is that we are there for our customers and fully operational throughout this restructuring process,” the statement reads. “We will continue operating under the COVID response measures currently in place and look forward to reopening our stores in accordance with CDC guidance as quickly and safely as possible. In the meantime, we continue to offer the same high-quality products you love and great customer service you expect through our e-commerce platforms.”
The company also stated that it expects all customer programs — including loyalty programs, gift cards, returns and exchanges — to “continue as usual.” The same updates apply to Madewell, J. Crew’s denim brand that has seen considerable growth compared to the flagship J. Crew label in recent years. As of late last year, there was industry speculation that Madewell would be spun off into a separate public company. But a lot has changed since then, and with more uncertainty ahead, predicting what’s next for retailers is anybody’s guess.