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Janie and Jack CEO Discusses Brand’s New Chapter

Children’s clothing brand Janie and Jack is setting itself up for future growth as management eyes wholesale and international options.

The brand, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in October, was acquired by Go Global in April 2021 from Gap Inc. Gap had acquired it for $35 million from Gymboree during its bankruptcy in 2019. The Gymboree assets and its Crazy 8 brand were acquired by Children’s Place for $76 million.

Following the acquisition of Janie and Jack, Go Global also bought children’s apparel label Brums Milano to build a platform for kids apparel. Go Global is using its May 2021 acquisition of ModCloth as the blueprint for building out its brand platforms.

Linda Heasley is the president and CEO of Janie and Jack

Linda Heasley, who joined Janie and Jack as president and CEO last December, said the investment group is committed to “building the brand and growing it.”

She plans to build out the brand’s international volume, as well as have a bigger presence in the wholesale distribution channel.

Janie and Jack has an emerging business in wholesale, so it knows that it can find significant growth opportunities, Heasley said.

Management has been fine-tuning its supply chain in the past year to better support wholesale when the channel ramps up. At one point prior to Go Global’s acquisition, the brand made a number of deliveries to Nordstrom. Heasley hopes to continue that relationship and build others.

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“We have placement at Saks [5th Avenue] in New York, and we’ve had demand and interest globally, as well,” Heasley said. “We want to make sure that we don’t disappoint so we’re waiting [a bit]. We’re getting everything in order to be able to support that in a bigger way.”

But before pushing ahead on expansion plans, Heasley said the immediate priority is replacing its point-of-sale system, which is slated for next year.

“The new system will improve the existing site and enable the ability to show more merchandise options,” she said.

Heasley is also exploring a new prototype for the store, noting that with the new POS systems, the big cash wrap desks are no longer needed and the freed-up space can now be devoted to modernizing the customer experience.

“We’re looking at whether we need fitting rooms as the kids get older and want to try on clothing, and then there’s how do we address augmented reality?” she said. “We’re going through an entire exploration of that customer experience that’s tied to the brick-and-mortar environment as well as the digital environment.”

As for sales growth, Heasley said the goal is to get omnichannel firing on all cylinders.

“About 50 percent of total volume is from digital, another 10 to 15 percent is omni and then the rest is the store channel, and we’ve been growing the productivity to start the store channel dramatically,” Heasley said.

The store channel is of particular importance, she pointed out.

“Sixty percent of our new customers to the brand will transact first in our stores,” Heasley said, noting how brick and mortar helps shoppers grasp the quality, mission and story behind the brand.

“We have 100 stores. We’re not overstored,” Heasley said. “We’d like to add a few more into the complement.”

Heasley said there’s a lot of “overlap between our digital commerce offering and our store channel offering,” but that because the stores are small, digital options mean customers can get additional choices and styles online. Pushing the omni experience allows Janie and Jack to showcase collections that it can’t put in its stores due to space limitations.

Heasley said her preferred store size is about 1,000 square feet.

“What we’re finding in some of our larger-volume stores, or higher-volume stores is that it’s a very productive footprint,” she said, pointing to the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J. as a prime example.

Another area garnering more attention is the supply chain.

“The amount of product newness that we deliver is fairly significant. And because of that, since we own our own channels, when collections were delayed, we had another collection that we could pull up and so were able to escape many of the challenges that a lot of other retailers had,” Heasley said. And while that has worked fairly well, she said a wholesale business will make that more challenging.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to protect that channel,” she said.

Janie and Jack mostly sources from “Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and a little bit in China,” Heasley said. She also didn’t rule out the possibility of nearshoring where it makes sense.

For back-to-school, twill pants, woven shirts and dresses were the top choices of millennial moms for boys and girls. Heasley noted that it isn’t uncommon to see three generations of families shopping at the store together.

Heasley said there are different gendered color palettes for the boys and girls lines, but usually there’s a floral print that ties the two together, something that could work for the family portrait. In the boys line it might be a floral shirt that connects with the print in a dress for girls, which is also then extended down to an item in the infants’ collection.

“That’s one of the things I think is really special about the brand, which is that family moment,” Heasley said. “The white linen shirt is one item we do merchandise on both sides of the floor as well as online. The white linen shirt that we had shown in boys was a great swimwear cover-up [for] girls. And the blue blazer that we have for boys is a great jacket for girls.”