Justine Griffin / Herald-Tribune – Is it just a strange coincidence we are seeing so many women’s retail brands going under one after another in 2015?
It started with Wet Seal, a discount apparel brand I remember well from my high school days, which filed for bankruptcy in January.
It shuttered its Sarasota Square Mall store on Jan 5. Next came Delia’s, a fashion apparel chain for girls and teens, which liquidated its Sarasota Square store (and all others) in January when the brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Fresh Produce, a Colorado-based apparel chain with a store on St. Armands Circle, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month. The Sarasota store is still open, though its future is uncertain.
The retailer, which sells tropical and vibrant every-day wear and sportswear for women, listed several outstanding debts, including a $3.9 million loan with Wells Fargo and an “unknown” debt for commercial rent to a Sarasota-based company, Great Lakes Developments.
Fresh Produce celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.
The most recent casualty was Cache, known for its evening gowns popular at high school proms, which is closing all of its more than 200 stores nationwide, including its store in the Mall at University Town Center, which opened in October. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month.
The growing line of failing women’s apparel chains paints a dreary picture for the brick-and-mortar retail industry. More people are shopping online, where the competition for consumers’ loyalty is fierce.
But who is responsible for the shrinking number of moderately priced women’s clothing companies? “Fast-fashion” brands, industry jargon for up-and-comers such as H&M, Charlotte Russe and Forever 21.
“H&M is cheap and hip. It’s taking a chunk of business from these brands that have been around a while longer,” said Jeff Green, retail analyst. “They have this cutting edge about them.”
H&M, a Swedish international apparel brand known for its discount prices on trendy clothing for young men and women, is easily one of the most popular stores to open at the Mall at University Town Center. It’s expansive display of men’s and women’s styles is constantly changing — and the prices are some of the cheapest in the mall.
Charlotte Russe and Forever 21, which have been staples in malls nationwide for teens and young women, are constantly reinventing themselves to stay relevant.
H&M and the others are known for having a strong online presence, both on social media and in their shopping websites, too.
More moderate brands, like Cache — whose overall look and feel has been the same for more than a decade — can’t compete with that.
“People will shop upscale or they’ll shop fast fashion,” Green said. “It’s that middle market that’s suffering.”