By Bria Ellis and Guneet Singh
Wet Seal, a young women’s clothing relator, in Smith Haven Mall officially closed on Sunday, Feb. 26 joining an increasing number of failing teen clothing stores.
After 55 years of business in America, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 2. All 137 stores across the country closed officially as of yesterday, Tuesday, Feb. 28. For the past month the store has been offering clothes as much as 90% off, to sell remaining merchandise.
“It’s just sad because a lot of people really like the fit of our clothes and don’t want to go to stores like Charlotte Russe,” Cheryl Winefeld, store manager at Wet Seal in Smith Haven Mall, said.
But not everyone will miss the store. “It doesn’t bother me at all because the quality of their clothing was so terrible,” Alyssa Fallon, a shopper who tried to take advantage of the sales at the store the day before it closed, said. “By the time I got there all they were selling were tables and mannequins.”
Wet Seal is not the first popular clothing store to suffer this fate. The Limited, an American clothing company, closed all stores in January 2017 leaving only an online store. PacSun, a retail clothing brand rooted in California styles, was forced to close between 10-20 stores to avoid bankruptcy in 2016. Sears and KMart, both under management of Sears Holdings, continue to slowly closes stores as sales decline.
Nasty Gal, an online retailer popular with millennial women, became a $100 million company in six years after building a strong presence online. The company went bankrupt last month and couldn’t sustain the cost of running physical stores. Similar to Wet Seal, the clothing quality was lower than what customers expected. Boohoo acquired the bankrupt company and has kept operations running.
Aeropostale, a shopping-mall based casual clothing retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016, but recently opened up 500 new stores. The company released a wider selection of styles to capture its free-spirit brand in partnership with Authentic Brands Group LLC. Its comparatively cheap price to other retailers like American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch is helping it stay afloat. The bankruptcy protection allows operations to run while the company reorganizes financially.
Mall visits in America for shoppers between 18-24 have been declining since 2007, according to research from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Mall visits began to increase in 2010 but not fast enough to bring stores needed revenue. Shoppers aged 18-24 make up the largest part demographic of mall goers.
Teens still shop at the mall, but don’t use it as a hangout spot the way they used to. It’s viewed as more of a functional with 55% of teens shopping with their parents and only 38% shopping with friends, according to Mintel’s “Marketing to Teens- US -May 2015.”
“All the young are shopping online,” Poonam Goyal, a retail analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said. “I was surprised this year at Thanksgiving when I went for shopping when the stores were empty. There was no crowd at Macy’s. There are no one visiting the stores.”
While Wet Seal closes, other popular teen brands such as Forever 21 and H&M are still in the market. These stores rotate the clothing within the store faster than most brands. Their faster buy rate has made all the difference to stay afloat while many stores around them fail.