British preppy is making its debut in New Haven on an already preppy street.
Last Thursday, the telltale pink-and-navy striped posters appeared on the York Street windows between J.Press and Gant, announcing the opening of the new clothing store, Jack Wills. The store will offer “fabulously British goods for the university crowd,” according to the Jack Wills website. While the news was met with mixed reactions from students, representatives of both the company and University Properties, which owns the location that Jack Wills is moving into, said they are positive about the store’s prospects.
Jack Wills takes its legacy seriously.
“We take our influence from Britain’s rich history and culture, juxtaposed with a heavy dose of the hedonistic college lifestyle, to create authentic and relevant clothing for today, that we think will resonate with the Yale student body,” said Olly Finding, International Marketing Director for Jack Wills.
Jack Wills appears to have been building a relationship with Yale for over two years. Since 2008, Jack Wills has hosted the Yale polo team at an exhibition match in the United Kingdom. The brand has also sponsored a number of events at the “infamous” Toad’s Place and have been involved in Harvard-Yale game tailgates, Finding said.
“For us it was a natural step to open a store on-campus as we think the Yale student body and Ivy League lifestyle perfectly embody the spirit of the brand,” Finding said.
Jack Wills first approached University Properties last fall about the vacant retail space, Director of University Properties Abigail Rider said. She added there were no other competitors for the store location at the time.
“Jack Wills … has been enjoying phenomenal success and growth in the UK, particularly in college towns throughout the UK,” Rider said. They are now establishing stores in selected college towns in the United States, and New Haven was the second college town on their list, Rider said.
As a future neighbor of the store, J. Press has known for about two months that Jack Wills would be filling the space, said J. Press manager Jim Fitzgerald.
Though he would have preferred it if the new store were a women’s store that complemented J.Press, Fitzgerald added he is glad the empty store space was filled.
Fitzgerald does not anticipate losing customers to Jack Wills.
“It’s certainly no competition [for us]- it’s geared to different, younger clientele,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s more competition for Gant, J. Crew and Urban Outfitters.”
Though J.Press was informed of the incoming tenants, not all nearby store managers knew.
Som Um, manager of Gant, said he was not aware that Jack Wills would be moving in next door, but added that he welcomes the arrival of Jack Wills. “Yale is about preppy chic,” Um said. “I think [Jack Wills] will help channel that and bring more traffic.”
Urban Outfitters and J.Crew both declined to comment.
“Their offerings certainly appeal to college students, but are different enough from the other retailers in the Broadway Retail District to increase the District’s appeal,” Rider said.
Though Jack Wills and University Properties representative believe the store will flourish in the downtown area, the anticipated arrival drew mixed reactions from students.
Five of six students interviewed had never heard of Jack Wills.
“I’m more of an Urban shopper,” Chris Tokita ’14 said. “I’m not a fan of buying clothes for having a name on it.”
Other students noted that Jack Will’s British prepster style is a different type of preppy than J.Press, Gant, or J. Crew.
“[Jack Wills] completes the nice preppy block,” Alex Shapiro ’14 said. “I probably wouldn’t buy anything there because I would go to J. Crew instead.”
There are currently three Jack Wills stores in the United States. The New Haven store will be the first outside of Massachusetts.