J. Crew to open S.A. call center

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14 March 2011
Customer call center near airport to bring 270 full-time jobs.

New York-based apparel retailer J. Crew Group Inc. will open a San Antonio customer contact center by midsummer employing 270 full-time jobs and hundreds more part-time and seasonal positions over the next three years.

The center will provide telephone, e-mail and live chat customer service, along with in-store phone support.

The call center will move into a 45,000-square-foot facility at 814 Arion Parkway, Building 3, near San Antonio International Airport east of U.S. 281 and close to Nakoma Street. The site previously was occupied by CVS Caremark.

Wage scales still are being finalized by J. Crew but will be competitive with similar jobs in the area, said Mario Hernandez, president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.

A site-selection consultant for J. Crew first contacted the foundation in October.

Hernandez said he did not know how many sites J. Crew considered, but the company did consider expanding at existing sites in Lynchburg, Va., where J. Crew operates its only other customer contact center, and Arden, N.C., which has a distribution center.

The availability of the Arion Parkway building, which already has furnishings, electronics and equipment, was a key attraction for J. Crew, Hernandez said.

"They told us this could save four months off starting up," he said.

J. Crew will invest between $1 million and $1.7 million in the building, Hernandez said. No incentives are involved in the new center.

In addition to full-time jobs, J. Crew plans to hire 100 part-time workers and 250 seasonal employees.

J. Crew operates 249 retail stores and 84 factory outlet stores, along with catalog and online sales. J. Crew operates two San Antonio stores, one each at North Star Mall and The Shops at La Cantera.

"After an extensive search throughout the western U.S., we are excited about our new location and the opportunity for our employees to live and work in a great city like San Antonio," Tony Brown, J. Crew's senior vice president for global supply chain, said in a prepared statement.

Foundation Chairman Kenny Wilson said, "Not only will their business add to our growing, diversified business community, their customer contact center will provide additional opportunities for people in the region and strengthen our economy."

In November, J. Crew Group was acquired by private equity groups TPG Capital L.P. and Leonard Green & Partners L.P. Dallas-based TPG Capital and Los Angeles-based Leonard Green also partly own Petco Animal Supplies Inc. in San Diego, Calif. Petco last fall announced it was moving part of its headquarters operations to San Antonio.

Hernandez said the common ownership was not a factor in J. Crews' site-selection process.

San Antonio continues to be viewed favorably by companies seeking to expand back office and customer operations, Hernandez said.

The size of the city's workforce, the number of young workers, the Central time zone and favorable real estate costs are the main factors.

"Almost 40 percent of the city's workforce is 24 years or younger. That tells employers they will have labor for years to come," Hernandez said.