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J.Crew to Open Fourth London Store... Surrounded by Bees

Don't worry, the bees are temporary.

J.Crew is moving along with its British expansion plans. Having opened its first London store in November, the New York-based retailer announced Thursday that it would be opening its fourth this September. It already has a space picked out and Jenna Lyons held a breakfast there Thursday to celebrate the new opening.

But is J.Crew actually doing well in the UK? Its expansion into the country has undeniably been met with a few setbacks.

A big challenge has been pricing: Everything is significantly more expensive in UK stores than it is in U.S. stores, presumably due to taxes, duties and other normal factors that cause price variances from country to country. However, we've heard from some Londoners that prices are often higher than they're willing to pay, that J.Crew stores are frequently empty and that, at least so far, they don't have the sizable sale sections U.S. stores are known for.

Even Jenna Lyons opened up to Bloomberg Businessweek about the challenges last fall, lamenting that "everything's different over there from the labeling to compliance to legal issues" and that it's been difficult to find good sales staff.

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Lyons told WWD that the company educates sales staff so that they can respond to customers' inquiries about higher prices. "There is always a dialogue about price: There are import taxes and duties, and the higher cost of doing business in London," Lyons said. "But it’s not our game to inflate prices for no reason. We want our customers to feel comfortable, and for them to know that we are a trustworthy company."

Lyons is marking this new store opening through a collaboration with Buglife, a charity that supports the conservation of bees and other bugs. Together, they've staged a "living vertical garden" on the store's facade (pictured), which will grow flowers known specifically to attract bees and promote pollination. Which, unless we're missing something, confuses us greatly: Why would anyone want to go into a store surrounded by bees? Those could sting even worse than those high prices will. 

Update: A rep from J.Crew clarified that the living garden is temporary and will come down before the store opens in September, and is just a part of J.Crew's support of Buglife and their efforts to help the ecosystem.