Identity Crisis at Forever 21
Forever 21 is one of the largest, fast fashion retailers in the world. With over 480 stores universally, 30,000 employees, (I’m one of them!) and an unclear target market, Forever 21 holds high and true to the typical teenager retailer. Or is it a teenager retailer? No one exactly knows who the Forever 21 shopper is due to their insane assortment of styles offered. The flagship store in Times Square sells work appropriate blazers, athletic gear, ripped jeans, and floral shirts… can you see the problem?
Forever 21 is trying to appeal to a broad assortment of teenager shoppers, and this is why no one knows who the target market truly is. Linda Chang, vice president of merchandising for Forever 21 and daughter of company founders Don Won and Jin Sook Chang, wrote to Racked.com and stated, “Forever 21 is known as a one-stop destination for fashion. The Forever 21 customer includes all ages, genders, and sizes—anyone who understands the importance of fast fashion, but still appreciates affordable luxury.” How can a brand represent ALL ages? I can’t exactly see a 60 year old grandma coming to buy high waisted shorts, or an 11 year old wearing black slacks… but to each their own.
Forever 21’s expansion is multiplying as the brand plans to open another 50 stores within the next three years. Their lack of specific identity hasn’t fazed their sales. In 2014 alone, they received around $4.6 billion dollars. Other retailers like Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale, and Wet Seal, all have had their controversies these last few years, but all these brands have a distinct shopper. Can Forever 21 truly be successful on a general appeal to the public? I honestly think they can, especially with an annual sales of that sort.
They are constantly adding new merchandise to the floor to keep things new and appealing. They are considered a fast fashion retailer, meaning as soon as a trend is spotted, that exact style can be found on their floor set the same week. “Our customers love coming in and knowing there will be something on the floor that they didn’t see the day before,” VP of merchandising, Linda Chang said.
I actually work at the Forever 21 in Times Square, and it’s true. Every night when I leave my shift and come back the next day, I can’t even recognize my “section” because everything is switched around by the overnight crew. You get into the swing of things and placements of items when you’re maintaining your entire shift, but at the end of the day, you have to erase that set up from your brain. It’s only been a few weeks with the company, but so far it’s been an interesting journey.