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J. Crew’s Debt Looms as Retailer Seeks to Regain First-Lady Glow

  • Chain focusing on preppy heritage, Madewell brand, discounting
  • Some of company’s $2 billion in debt becomes current in 2018
Denim jackets sit on hangers inside a J. Crew Group Inc. fashion store.
Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg
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J. Crew Group Inc. is heading into 2017 on a mission that gets more critical with each passing day: turn around a two-year sales slump or slam head-on into a wall of debt.

Some of the company’s $2 billion in debt becomes current in 2018, and J. Crew needs to revive its flagging business to stave off rising odds of default. To do that, the retailer is focusing on its preppy heritage, expanding its discount business and fueling the growth of its small but successful Madewell brand geared toward millennials. For some analysts, it may already be too late.