If you’re following retail, you’ve heard that fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States; and if you’re Canadian, perhaps you’ve also read that all 44 stores here will be closing in Canada before the end of this year. The iconic retailer, arguably the original fast-fashion pioneer, is only one of many brick and mortal retailers to seek bankruptcy protection over the past 12 months (Payless ShoeSource and American Apparel come to mind). Those retailers still standing need to do something differently if they expect to avoid the same fate.
“Always be Relevant, and Never be Boring”
I advise my clients to follow two cardinal rules: Always be relevant, and never be boring. The jury is out on whether Forever 21 was boring (on the plus side, the rapidly rotating product ensured something new on every visit. On the negative side, walking into a Forever 21 felt not so different from walking into any discount apparel store these days). What we know for sure, though, is that Forever 21 lost its relevance in this time of shifting customer preferences. They’re telling the story of a frugal, fashion forward shopper. But because that story is missing a new, crucial element, it no longer resonates.
Forever 21 didn’t anticipate a shift in the demographic preference that prioritizes environmental impact over a quick fashion wardrobe fix. The stores were empty, because while the dollar price was cheap, the environmental cost was simply too high. The hero of this story is now the frugal, fashion forward shopper who also cares about the environment, and she’s shopping elsewhere.
But what about other fast-fashion retailers whose stores are also largely empty? They’ll need to do two things to stay relevant: Take steps to align their products to reflect the more environmentally conscious shopper, and, perhaps more importantly, they’ll need to craft a story in which the hero, by shopping at their store, is fashion conscious, frugal, and environmentally sensitive.
What retailers do you see fitting this new trend?