Retail expert says Forever 21 fell out of step with young, often fickle consumer base

ByKris Reyes via KGO logo
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
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Forever 21, the clothing brand that made billions in the early 2000s for selling cheap, cool and fast fashion has filed for bankruptcy.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Forever 21, the clothing brand that made billions in the early 2000s for selling cheap, cool and fast fashion has filed for bankruptcy

"I do have a lot of friends who are shopping online," says 18-year-old shopper Yume Gonzalez.

RELATED: Forever 21 fashion chain files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

"My age is 23 and my shopping habit consists mostly of online," says Jason Russum.

Both shoppers are in the Forever 21 age demographic, but what Yume and Jason want today is a lot different than what consumers their age wanted 10 years ago.

"The rise of online shopping, changing consumer behaviors, it's a tough landscape for retailers," says Rachel Michelin with California Retailers Association, who says she's disappointed with Forever 21's bankruptcy move but not necessarily surprised.

"I do think there's much more competition out there and the retailers that are being successful are the ones that have combined, brick and mortar with an online presence."

As a point of comparison, ASOS and Boohoo are both fast-fashion providers that have been growing over recent years. However, unlike Forever 21, they are online retailers, not just stores with an online presence.

Other changing consumer behaviors-- a more eco-conscious generation looking for sustainable and local products.

Forever21 hit big in the 2000s with billions in sales and became synonymous with fast, cheap and disposable fashion.

"I would like to buy domestic products, I'd definitely like something that's more ethical as a product," says Rossum.

In 2018, more than a dozen companies filed for bankruptcy including Sears, Rockport, Nine West, and Claire's.

In a statement, an executive for the company says it will be business as usual for shoppers in their US stores, as well as Mexico and Latin America.

"This was an important and necessary step to secure the future of our Company, which will enable us to reorganize our business and reposition Forever 21," said Linda Chang, executive vice president for the company.

"They expanded, very quickly, maybe they shouldn't have gone as fast as they did. They also didn't stay in step with what their consumers are looking for," says Michelin.

Forever 21 expanded globally, opening more than 200 stores between 2005 and 2015. They are expected to close down many of those international operations with a promise to keep their US, Mexico and Latina America operations open for business.