By Christopher Lui
The turnaround plans for the Toronto based denim focused retailer, Jean Machine have proven to be unsuccessful. The remaining 24 stores located in Ontario will officially close in 2019.
The chain which has been operating for over 42 years was founded in 1976. It features quality brand name casual fashion with a focus on denim. Brands carried include Silver Jeans Co., Buffalo David Bitton, mavi and Guess.
The changes for Jean Machine were first necessitated due to their January 2017 bankruptcy protection filing owing an undisclosed amount to creditors. According to a 2017 Globe and Mail article, Jean Machine suffered from both premium denim products and low cost fashion players entering the denim space. In March 2017, Jean Machine was acquired by Vancouver-based Stern Partners Inc. for an undisclosed amount. The turnaround plan including shifting their target market to a mature customer rather than focusing on younger market. The stores were to be renovated with a focus on new light fixtures and repainting. The Yorkdale location that was updated in 2016 served as a prototype for store renovations. The store features included an industrial feel with larger dressing rooms to appeal to both a younger and mature target market. However these changes were not enough for the chain.
Over the 2018 Christmas period, Jean Machine will wind down operations. Twenty of the twenty-four stores will operate until January 31, 2019. The remaining four stores will remain open until February 28, 2019. At this time, JeanMachine.com will continue to operate for online purchases however an official date that the online store will close has not been announced. For those shopping at Jean Machine for Christmas gifts, be advised that effective November 1, 2018, all sales are final. The previous return policy allowing returns with receipts within 14 days will no longer be honored. This policy applies to both in store and online purchases.
As a gesture of goodwill towards its customers, Jean Machine will continue to accept Jean Machine Gift Cards prior to January 31, 2019. All gift card sales ceased on November 1, 2018. With an impeding store closure, customers should utilize gift cards as soon as possible. This CBC article illustrates the pitfalls when a store closes rendering gift cards useless.
The denim market in Canada according to market research firm Euromonitor expects to grow 2% between 2017 and 2022. This growth is driven by premium luxury and fast fashion brands impacting mid-priced labels. As Jean Machine is positioned in the mid-price category it was being squeezed from both ends. Even premium denim brands are not immune to changing consumer preference, True Religion Denim filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017. The company blamed the rise in the athleisure trend for poor sales. True Religion has since exited out of bankruptcy protection. Although denim is still a staple in wardrobes, shifting consumer trends in denim to more sustainable and fair practice brands will help retailers stand out in the marketplace.
With the difficult Canadian retail landscape, there may be more struggling retailers that could be in trouble for 2019.
Christopher Lui is a Human Resources and Marketing Professional with over 10 years of experience in project management and working on multi-stakeholder projects in both public and private sectors. He has management consulting experience in areas such as strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, and change management. An avid shopper and foodie always looking for the next big thing to try. Follow him on Twitter @chrislui01 or LinkedIn at Christopher Lui.