New Forever 21 changes face of Fashion Fair
Bethany Clough / The Fresno Bee
Modesto’s Forever 21 opened two of three floors in a former 154,500-square-foot store Gottschalks in 2009, but is now closed for a six-month renovation.
The new Fresno store is more than 10 times larger than the existing one.
Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail consultant, said the chain is taking over affordable, large locations in areas with a mix of races and ethnicities. The retailer appeals to a cross-section of young women, he said.
“You can’t say that about a lot of retailers,” he said.
Still, Green is skeptical about the size.
“The Gottschalks in Fresno is huge,” he said. “The question would be, is there enough product to fill the store?”
Forever 21 says there is.
In addition to its current offerings geared toward young women, it has added several new lines of clothing recently developed.
A men’s department will be added, along with girls clothing, a line of work-appropriate clothing and the new casual brand of clothing, “Heritage.”
The store has more choices, said Lance Canteloupè, a regional visual manager for the chain. It is arranged in themed areas, such as “prairie” that features floral dresses, or an ’80s section with $14.50 Madonna-inspired skirts.
An expanded basics department features racks of $3.50 tank tops and T-shirts.
Canteloupè said the store is known for its “fast fashion,” and will swap out its styles every 30 to 60 days, as opposed to every season for a traditional department store.
It took 27 semi trucks to fill the store for the grand opening, and it will regularly hold 120,000 items, Canteloupè said.
The Fresno store was originally supposed to open in early 2010. Those involved blame the delay on a combination of structural issues and an ever-growing list of what the company wanted to do inside the store.
“They gutted that store to the walls,” said Michael Strle, Fashion Fair’s senior property manager.
The old escalators were removed and rebuilt in the back of the store. A new marble staircase was built in the middle of the store.
A local splash
Forever 21 will never replace Gottschalks when it comes to the effect the company had being headquartered here. And the donations it makes to the community likely won’t match Gottschalks’, said Steve Geil, CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.
But the new store is good for the local economy when it comes to jobs and the local tax revenue purchases at the store will create, he said.
“I think these guys are probably going to kick butt,” he said.
Many of their customers agree.
Darlene Dana, 19, of Clovis said she’s waited up to 25 minutes in line on a Saturday afternoon to make a purchase at the existing store. And lines for the dressing rooms are common, she said.
The store is on top of trends, she said. For example, it sells the long skirts she reads about being popular in recent fashion magazines.
She thinks the new store will succeed.
“They have … everything, every style. They have tribal things, hipster, preppy,” she said. “I don’t think it will flop.”
The existing store will close once the larger location opens. Love Culture, another women’s clothing store, will take over the space.
And while the Forever 21 brand identifies with a much younger generation than many of Gottschalks’ loyal fans, Geil says not to count those Gottschalks customers out.
They’ll be taking their grandkids shopping there, he said.