A J.Crew store is seen in Manhattan, New York March 3, 2014. An acquisition of the preppy J.Crew by Fast Retailing could fit snugly between its Uniqlo basics and more upmarket Theory brands, but the Japanese clothing firm is likely to balk at the $5 billion price tag J.Crew is said to be asking for. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY)
J.Crew on the cheap — coming soon to a mall near you?
Mike Segar/REUTERS

The Wall Street Journal reports that J.Crew may be developing a new “budget-conscious” concept called J.Crew Mercantile. While details other than a name ownership have yet to be officially confirmed by the store, the Journal reports that sources close to the operation say Mercantile “will feature merchandise and prices closer to what shoppers would find at J. Crew Factory, the retailer’s outlet stores, than what is available in its full-line stores.”

Women’s Wear Daily stated, “J. Crew trademarked the J. Crew Mercantile name in November for a variety of categories and services, including jewelry, fashion and travel accessories, umbrellas and backpacks.” However, the publication says the company may not move forward as company spokesperson Margot Fooshee told WWD, “It’s too preliminary to discuss the subject.”

The Journal compares the move to J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler’s days at Gap, Inc., where he developed Old Navy as a lower-priced extension of the company that echoes the brand’s core design values. A price-based hypothetical for Mercantile offerings was compared to J.Crew’s Factory stores, “without the ‘outlet’ association.”

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Drexler introduced Madewell— a more contemporary, casual women’s brick and mortar chain with slightly lower price points — to the J.Crew family in 2006, and continues to expand the brand’s Men’s Shop concepts. The company is also rumored to be prepping to go public later this year, following reports that Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing was in talks to buy the company in mid-March..

Will Mercantile raise the stakes for the company before it goes public? And more importantly: What will this new concept sell? Will I want to buy it? Probably!

We have reached out to J.Crew and will continue to update as more information becomes available.