Forever 21, once among America's fastest growing fast-fashion retailers, will file for bankruptcy
Forever 21, an American mall mainstay which helped proliferate the "fast-fashion" trend, will file for bankruptcy.
Linda Chang, the California-based company's executive vice president, told the New York Times on Sunday night that the retailer would soon cease operations in 40 countries as part of a Chaper 11 filing.
"What we're hoping to do with this process is just to simplify things so we can get back to doing what we do best," Chang told the Times.
The company also plans to close up to 178 stores in the US and up to 350 globally. The company will continue to operate its website and hundreds of brick and mortar shops across American shopping malls.
Chang told the Times that the company faced rapid expansion — opening stores in 47 countries in less than six years — that contributed to a lot of "complexity" with their business model. She added that changes to the retail industry, including the rise of e-commerce, challenged the business.
"The retail industry is obviously changing," she told the Times. "There has been a softening of mall traffic and sales are shifting more to online."
The announcement comes after reports that Forever 21 had hired a team of advisers to seek out private equity support to refinance and restructure the beleaguered brand. However, efforts to do so proved futile, thanks in part to ongoing disagreements between store landlords and company leadership, including cofounder Do Won Chang, who has insisted on maintaining a controlling stake in the company, Bloomberg reported.
As a privately held company, Forever 21 — which currently has more than 800 stores across the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America — does not publicly disclose sales, though it's estimated to bring in $3 billion annually. However, the company has shown significant signs of struggle over the past few years, including store closures in international markets like London and China and an overstocked product assortment.
Sources close to the matter told Bloomberg that "a bankruptcy filing would help the company shed unprofitable stores and recapitalize the business."
Forever 21 was founded in 1984 and rose to prominence in the 1990s and early aughts for its low-priced, stylish offerings that were particularly popular among young women. The company took a hit in recent years thanks to increased competition from trendy e-commerce companies like Revolve, as well as the rise of direct-to-consumer companies that have redirected shoppers away from malls.