Now, mall-based retailers from Under Armour to Urban Outfitters are missing the mark because young shoppers go to the mall knowing exactly what they want instead of planning to browse and spend time there, a sign that brand loyalty is waning.
Therein lies the similarity between tech giant Apple and the management shake-up at J.Crew, the "Mad Money" host said, aside from the fact that Drexler served on Apple's board for 16 years, appointed by the late Steve Jobs to help the company develop its retail presence.
"Despite all this internet disintermediation, despite the endless hunt for bargains via Amazon, Apple's got the best brand loyalty in the world," Cramer said. "The loyalty is the key to the earnings per share, it's the key to its stock's recent run, [and] it's the key to why Warren Buffett became the company's largest shareholder."
Cramer thinks Apple's $349 HomePod, a clear challenger to the $179 Amazon Echo, will have plenty of takers despite its price tag because of the company's commitment to brand loyalty, an intangible but crucial sales driver that has been all but lost on traditional retailers of late.
"Think about retail," Cramer said. "Don't you increasingly believe that most apparel's generic?Think about televisions. Totally generic, right? I mean, my daughter bought a 55-incher the other day and I didn't ask which maker, I figured it would work no matter what. Big deal, right? Same with the fridge I bought recently. And the washer and dryer. I'm getting a grill. I don't even care who makes the grill. I recently bought a terrific bike; the owner of the store suggested it, I'd never even heard of the brand."
Dwindling brand loyalty, while it is a drag on some brick-and-mortar retail, puts Apple's products in the spotlight.
Cramer figures the consumer products giant would not be putting out a sound device at a high-end price if CEO Tim Cook was not sure it was superior to similar products on the market.
"That's what Mickey Drexler really ran into," the "Mad Money" host explained. "I don't sit there anymore and say 'I need to have Crew.' I don't say I need to have anything. Yes, when it comes to the ultra-highest end clothes there's some loyalty, but most people don't wear Brioni and I buy my casual clothes at Costco. Hey, they always seem to have a good deal. Or I buy on Amazon."
So at the end of the day, where traditional retailers have failed to grasp customers for the sake of their brands, Apple reigns supreme even with a formidable challenge from Amazon.
"I used to have a brand that I was loyal to, every one of those items that I just mentioned," Cramer said of his fridge, grill, bike, and washer. "And to me, it would've been heresy at another time to trade away. Now, I don't care about any brand except for Apple."
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