The Rise And Fall Of Forever 21

The Rise And Fall Of Forever 21

Forever 21 was once
among America’s fastest-growing
fast-fashion retailers. It transformed its
once penniless founders into billionaires, established itself as
a powerhouse in the fast-fashion world, and, at its peak, made
$4.4 billion in revenue. But the once flush
company is now preparing to file
for bankruptcy. So, what happened? Back in the day, Forever 21 embodied the
American dream. In 1981, Jin Sook and Do
Won “Don” Chang moved to Los Angeles from
South Korea with no money, no
college degrees, and speaking little English. To make ends meet, Jin Sook
worked as a hairdresser while Don worked
as a janitor, pumped gas, and
served coffee. Until he noticed that
“the people who drove the nicest cars were all
in the garment business.” So three years later,
with $11,000 in savings, the Changs opened a
900-square-foot clothing store called
Fashion 21. The couple took advantage
of wholesale closeouts to buy merchandise from
manufacturers at a discount. Their system worked. The store made $700,000
in sales its first year. Fashion 21 was initially
only popular with LA’s Korean
American community. But the Changs
leveraged their success, opening new stores
every six months, which broadened the
company’s customer base at the same time. They also changed the
name to Forever 21 to emphasize the idea
that it was “for anyone who
wants to be trendy, fresh and young in spirit.” The company’s key to
success was simple: cultivate a huge following
by selling trendy clothing
for low prices. While this is something
that today’s consumers pretty much expect, Forever 21 was one
of the first to do it. And they were the fastest. Jin Sook was eventually
approving over 400 designs a day. Which meant the
company could sell trends as they were happening. Even if some of those designs
landed Forever 21 in trouble. But while other brands
and designers might not have been
Forever 21’s biggest fans, customers couldn’t
get enough of their affordable styles. As a result, Forever 21
became one of the largest tenants
of American malls, with 480 locations
nationwide. And by 2015, business
was booming. Forever 21’s sales peaked, with $4.4 billion in
global sales that year. As for the Changs? They became one of
America’s wealthiest couples, with a combined net
worth reaching an estimated $5.9 billion
in March 2015. Forever 21’s goal
was to become an $8 billion company
by 2017 and open 600 new
stores in three years. But the company’s
aggressive expansion would also lead to
its downfall. Part of what made Forever 21
popular in the first place was its fast-fashion model. Even though its products
were always mass-produced, they still felt unique
because its stores only sold select styles
for a limited time. However, as the company
focused on growing bigger, its styles became more
“cookie-cutter.” As a result,
Forever 21 started to lose touch with
its core customers, while competitors like
H&M and Zara rose. No longer the trendsetter, Forever 21 became
the butt of the joke. It’s also no longer the
fastest in the game. Internet brands like
Fashion Nova churn out celebrity- and
influencer-inspired styles at a rapid-fire pace. And as e-commerce
has continued to boom, traditional retailers
like Forever 21 have struggled to adapt to changing consumer
behaviors. According to a March
2019 survey, millennials make 60% of
their purchases online and overall prefer
online shopping over going to a
physical store. Yet, Forever 21 continued
opening new stores as recently as 2016, even expanding
existing stores to take over multiple
floors with mens, childrens, and
home-goods sections. Which could help explain
why Forever 21’s sales are estimated to
have dropped by 20% to 25% in 2018. On top of that, the Changs, who still own the company, have lost more than
$4 billion from their personal
net worths. The company overall is
now $500 million in debt and considering
filing for bankruptcy. Forever 21 has already
started downsizing its stores. And as one of the largest
tenants of America’s malls, a widespread shutdown
of Forever 21 could exacerbate what’s
already being referred to as the “retail apocalypse,” which has already closed
more than 15,000 retailers across the US and could shut down
75,000 more, according to investment
firm UBS. But bankruptcy
doesn’t always mean the end for
a company. In fact, it could give
Forever 21 time to restructure
and bounce back. The company could
shut down its least profitable stores and try rebranding itself. But in an age of cheap
internet boutiques and fast-fashion empires,
this might not be enough. So it turns out Forever 21 might not be forever
after all.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Dang…I live on the other side of america/ aisia and i love shopping at places like forever21. Though I've never been there it sounds like a small dream where i can buy cool clothes at "low" prices. I say low with quotaions because 1US dollar is like 50pesos in my country. So kinda expensive TwT for me at least

  2. Never shopped from F21 before, we don't have it in Europe, but I'm endlessly happy a fast fashion company is going bankrupt

  3. I just think their target audience got older, like they should really cut back on graphic tees and do more mature stuff 🤷‍♀️

  4. No one wanted to shop in their stores because the stuff on the mannequin were never nearby. Could never find anything. Like it was stocked by teenagers… no thanks.

  5. Put pockets on your sweatpants and then maybe…
    Bought shorts and each leg was a different size.
    Bought a sheer top and it's perfect.

    Too hot and cold.

    F21 is like the bastard child of Delia's and Alloy.
    I prefer Delia's and Alloy.

  6. Yep. Quality has gone down. I used to find better items years back.
    Also nobody to really help you in the store.
    Returns are horrible.
    I read complaints that their online shipping is so slow.
    I still buy some jewelry in there and they are good for decent cheap camis. 👍 LOL , from the comments alone, as long as they don't add pizza, avocados, kittens, unicorns, etc. on those too. 😆😆😆

  7. The owners being South Korean explains why the store had Korean fashion for sale. I hope the store doesn’t close down because there’s nowhere else around here that sells clothing like that.

  8. I liked forever 21 when it first came to my area, they had a lot of unique things and all that. Now it seems they sell the same things in every store & the same type of clothes.

  9. wait, is forever 21 closing down like near the end of november? i’ve heard is this true? someone that knows please explain😂💘

  10. They need to really just stop doing the cute “print” on every single thing. It’s honestly annoying. It makes it seem like their just childish.

  11. Nothing ever fit me from Forever 21 even when I was skinny idk why. Fashionnova could never jk lol fashionnova is bad quality. Forever 21 has everything the same color and it did get tacky.

  12. Dont forget that you have to buy a short 3x your size just so it fits properly, and still fits properly after you wash it.

  13. Fast fashion is so over anyway. Slow fashion is the future. Businesses like this one, h&m, Zara and other large fashion conglomerates can only do what they do by exploiting workers for their labour and skills. They should all be boycotted. Find small ethical clothing producers in your local area and buy some real original designs.

  14. They focused on expanding instead of delivering I was a regular shopper, never really bought on Zara and other shops but this year I found myself shopping at Zara and etc,cause F21 clothes are jokes, you cant find anything classic or formal, everything is rather cropped, with holes, full of drawings like I just need a some tops and jeans no need for so many extrass

  15. I wouldn't buy their clothes anyway. I try not to buy clothes that are made in so bad working and quality conditions and that goes so well for me.💯 I love my wardrobe and my clothes more and more 💯💕

  16. My wife likes there stores, so over priced for what you get.
    I buy my jeans from tractor supplies, loggers and Walmart if I'm to lazy to drive more then 15 minutes.
    I had a loggers set of jeans for 14 years now.
    Forever 21 jeans only last about a year, the seams on them are shit to be truthful and it's high grade horse hair denim. Loggers and tractor supplies use low grade or high grade cow or bull denim.
    I only know this, because I am do it your self guy. I repaired 19 pairs of jeans this year over buying new ones.
    Truth be told, repairing old clothes is better, they actually make them Stronger, your over lapping old and new seams. the way I make them, there more comfortable then any new clothes. According to my wife, daughter and two boys.

  17. i winced when they went from 5 billion to 1 billion and 500 million in debt dkdjdkkdkd… i guess 1b is still alot but thats a huge loss.

  18. 99% comments are about :
    Me : 😍cute top /t shirt

    On the back of the t shirt : pizaa, avacado, unicorn etc😥😲😧😦

  19. I dunno but their branches in the philippines are pretty rad thooooo sooooo hmmm or maybe its just me who likes it 🤔 but again dunno we all have diff styles sooooooooo

  20. Dry Cry…very sad to see them leave CANADA…MY FAV PLACE TO SHOP…guess i WILL be going to US or shopping online…the former is better option…online shopping SUKS…

  21. I made the mistake of not doing a double take when it came to F21 and now own a jacket that says “I love boys” with a dinosaur patch right next to it…

  22. I dont shop here becuase the guys section sucks ass might as well get rid of it😂😂🤷🏽‍♂️ oh AND they never have my size always see Lrg+ since medium is always MIA 😑

  23. If they read the comments it could literally save their buisness, who knows how many millions they spend trying to innovate designs and sales tactics 😂😂😂

  24. I can't say that I really feel sorry for them. Something else will come along as a trend and then people will get bored of it. That's the way life goes.

  25. F21 has one of the worst website layouts and it is one of the slowest sites to be on. They don't have free online returns, no type of loyalty program (Just the credit card), and they have up-ed their prices but kept the same cheap low-quality. They aren't transparent about anything nor are they making any plans (Nor will they ever) to become a more sustainable company. They don't have a rewards program, just the credit card.

  26. Classic example of "too big, too fast" syndrome. I can see how a company that as recently as 2 years ago was still projecting to have 600 brick and mortar stores when their core demographic are Millennials (who shop almost exclusively online) would definitely hurt their business model.

  27. As it turns out, most people don’t want to be 21 forever, because dressing in neon mini skirts and tube tops is trashy and immature.

  28. Personally I think they were very overrated and expensive for their quality that's why. The fabric quality was very cheap.which is ok if you're going to sell it at the price that it deserves…. I do not want to pay €30 for a T-shirt or a hoody.Its absurd. I found forever 21 sweaters in second-hand stores for 8 to 10 lev here in Bulgaria which is 4-5 euros. A much more deserving price for their cheap materials.

  29. In my country, Forever 21 ain’t that lame as in the US. They have cute hoodies and badass croptops. They also sell niceshit jumpers. It’s just the US branches 🤷‍♀️

  30. Customer:"They sell straight jackets too? I wonder what's on the ba..
    Factory 21: “Help! I'm locked in a sweatshop!”

  31. The kardashians culture bankrupted them and so many other stores shutting down due to the new cultural influences. But its the store's fault that they was not selling stuff according to new trends

  32. One of the biggest things as well… Forever 21 only really sells to teens and young adults, but primarily teens, so with their prices having gone up, teens started buying cheaper options since they have limited income. Hence why Romwe blew up.

  33. tbh I'm sad forever 21 is closing. i mean I don't shop there, they don't sell things cute for average women, but my mall is very small and they had a big store. when sears closed everyone thought that the mall was going to slowly die. I hope that doesn't happen

  34. I Liked their stuff. But after a while they went up on they prices and they clothes and accessory start falling apart😕 then they try to tell you that you cant bring it back😒

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