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Founder and ceo Don Chang said the company is growing its store fleet and expanding product categories, and stressed Forever 21 has styles for a wide range of tastes and ages, even though it has been identified with the teen and tween markets.
Chang’s daughters, Linda, the 28-year-old senior marketing manager, and Esther, the 23-year-old visual manager, have taken a more visible role in the company, which they joined a year ago. The sisters have been credited with tapping into the zeitgeist of younger consumers. Don Chang’s projection for the Times Square flagship is $100 million-plus in sales in the first year. Times Square is not Forever 21’s largest store. That designation goes to a unit at Riverside Plaza in Riverside, Calif., which opened last year and has 184,234 square feet of space. In second place is a 125,000-square-foot store in a former Dillard’s at the Fashion Show Mall on the Las Vegas Strip.
Forever 21 has regularly been criticized by designers for copying their styles, which the retailer has denied. It has begun aping rivals H&M, Target and Topshop, though, by forming designer partnerships — although it has a long way to go. Its first deal is with Brian Lichtenberg, known for his crime-scene tape design for Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video, who designed a series of graphic T-shirts for Forever 21, in stores this month.
As the world’s second largest retailer behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with sales last year of 96 billion euros, or $123.1 billion, Carrefour has a naturally dominant position in the apparel market. The group tied with Galeries Lafayette as France’s top retailer in terms of market share in a survey of clothing consumption by the French Fashion Institute (IFM) covering the period of September 2008 to August 2009.
But Carrefour has lagged its fast-fashion competitors and last year ended its collaboration with Max Azria to bring a fashionable edge to the retailer’s in-house label Tex, which is sold in the company’s out-of-town hypermarkets, where women make up 80 percent of footfall.
Chief executive officer Lars Olofsson, who came on board early last year, has launched a wide-ranging reshuffle to make Carrefour more competitive and is testing new concepts for its underperforming hypermarket business, which will be presented to investors in greater detail in mid-September. Olofsson said earlier this year that the revamp would include a radical overhaul of the apparel division, involving a shift to a shorter cycle in order to supplement Carrefour’s casual basics with more fashion-forward offerings. However, the ceo added the new fashion direction would not take shape before 2011 or 2012.
John David Roeg, head of the Western European retail team at ING in Amsterdam, noted fashion was not a core category for Carrefour in the way that it is for Target, for instance. “Without fashion, there is no Target. Carrefour is more based on food. In the past, they had a lot of tailwinds with their fashion, there was not a lot of competition. But you know, Target has formidable competitors in the U.S. for fashion, and still they’re doing pretty well,” the analyst said. Carrefour, on the other hand, is losing market share in apparel, he said. “They perhaps have a leadership position in terms of total sales, but not in terms of the money pool. They’re not as profitable as the competition,” said Roeg.