The life of Mr. and Mrs. Chang, owners of the fast fashion retail chain Forever 21 reads as a success story. It’s the realization of the American dream. In 1981, they arrived as immigrants in LA and managed to work their way into the fashion business. Their first store, Fashion 21, selling cheaply made clothes for teens, was opened in 1984. After a lot of hard work and a great success in the US and later in the East, they are now on their way to conquer Europe. They still manage the company, together with their 2 daughters. Recently, new stores were opened in Barcelona, London, Brussels and Antwerp. In 2008, Forever 21 accounted for a profit of $135 million. What’s the secret behind Forever 21? What explains its popularity amongst Gen Y?
Shoppers at Forever 21 expect the store to offer trendy stuff. Lots of trendy stuff. When new trends arise on the catwalk, people want them in the store immediately after. And somehow, Forever 21 manages to do so. Fashion watchers can easily pick out the newest trends and designs in the shops. Forever 21 has been more than once accused of copying designers and this has led to various lawsuits in the past. But they managed to settle.
When opening a shop, they also act fast. It took them 6 weeks to open a new store Fifth Avenue. That’s nothing. No time (or you could also read no money) to loose. As the company says: we’re about energy and turnover.
Every day something new, that’s also the motto of Forever 21. ‘Buy it now, or it’s gone’ is the efficient and profit generating policy of Forever 21. Apparently, Mrs. Chang, who is responsible for the collection of Forever 21, reviews about 400 new designs a day. The Changs realized that change is essential. The ideal concept for the stimulating junkies generation of today. No dead inventory, movement comes first.
It’s rather unique
One important thing distinguishes Forever 21 from its main competitors: uniqueness. No fear that you will find your classmate or friend in the same outfit as yourself, Forever 21 orders small mounts and learns it shoppers to buy immediately and not wait till the next visit. Not buying means gone.
With no items above $60, Forever 21 is making fashion accessible to all and creating itself a large potential market. They went from one to more than six own brands, offering clothes to kids, men, extra large and pregnant women. Everyone can afford to buy something at Forever 21.
Forever 21 is good at listening to its customers. That’s how they got started (the story goes that Mr. Chang asked customers what they were looking for and if they didn’t have the items, he would bring it in the store as soon as possible) and that’s what they continue doing. It increases the connection between Forever 21 and its customers. They work with a limited advertising budget, but have more than 5 million Facebook fans. And these fans sell their products to others. Check out their blog, The Skinny.
It’s talked about
Just like H&M, Forever 21 is investing in a designer collection. In August of this year, they produced some T-shirts designed by Brian Lichtenberg, one of the favorite designers of Lady Gaga. This way, the young audience has something to talk about.
Besides all these characteristics, Forever 21 is also known for its secrecy (the company is really scarce with information) and the religious background and conviction of its owners. The bags of Forever 21 read ‘John 3:16’, a reference to the Bible. The Changs are highly religious and go to church every day at 5 in the morning. Faith is an important driver. Might be seen as authentic or real?
Seems like Forever 21 passes the Cool Real Unique Self-identification Happy – test rather well … Every day is another day in retail. You never win. You live to sell the next product. That’s how Forever 21 thinks. Sounds like the pragmatic Gen Y’rs to me.