Loud music blaring over the stereo system. Bright colors welcoming every customer who walks through the doors. These signature aspects of the once-hotspot for teens, Forever 21, are burned into most millennials’ memories.
An authority in fashion and the go-to retailer for the latest trends, styles, and the hottest deals, Forever 21 is a privately owned company. The fast fashion retailer can be found in 27 countries worldwide including the U.S., Canada, several countries throughout Europe, as well as in Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.
The rise to stability hasn’t always been easy, though. The closure of its stores in London and China have suggested that the company hit a rough patch. It was further evident when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2019.
Nonetheless, before the company started facing struggles, it was pretty unstoppable. The company was the hottest place for you to get your on-trend clothes. It was the king of fast fashion and seemed to be in every store.
This article explores Forever 21’s history for insight into the company’s rise to prominence. Over the years, we also reviewed some of the brand’s challenges and the marketing strategies that helped Forever 21 stay ahead of the competition and remain strong despite the challenges.
Forever 21 History
How It Started
Do Won Don noted the people driving luxury cars up and down the streets of LA were interested in the clothing industry and decided to explore it himself. So the couple opened their first store called Fashion 21 in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was a 900-square-foot space. Fashion 21 made over $700,000 in sales within the first year of business.
Essentially, Jin Sook’s knack for spotting trends you could easily copy was what put them on the map. Her skills gave them an edge in the competitive fashion industry.
Fashion 21 offered shoppers a series of inexpensive clothing produced by Korean American manufacturers. Jin Sook chose every item in the store, and Merchandise turned over quickly. The hottest, trendiest, and newest outfits were always at the front of the store to attract buyers in. Industry Analytics estimated that Fashion 21 turned over 20% of its stock every passing week. That was twice the rate of other clothing brands.
The Changes that Gave Birth to the Modern Forever 21
After the first company turned out successfully, the Changs decided to change the store’s name to Forever 21. After opening their first store in Panorama City, California, the couple opened new stores each month. In 1995 the company opened a store in Miami and began to shift its focus internationally.
The company’s first international store was in Canada and opened in 2001. Within a decade, Forever 21 was already a dominant company in the fashion industry as it had 500 stores across the US. The Changs were the 79th wealthiest Americans, and their business continued to thrive. This fashion brand made a name for itself as the ideal spot for trendy clothes at affordable prices.
In 2015, the company had made $4.4 billion in sales and had over 600 stores. The Changs had a net worth of $5.9 billion and the fashion brand made a name for itself by always providing new inventory for buyers at low prices.
Forever 21 Brand Construction
The Forever 21 brand offers eight sub-brands that are broken up. However, in Forever 21 history, these sub-brands were housed in the same oversized Forever 21 stores.
Forever 21’s sub-brands:
- XXI Forever: This sub-brand is found in the largest flagship store and contains all the smaller labels you can find under Forever 21 brand.
- Forever 21 Girls: This sub-brand features a transformation of the original XXI Forever brand. This sub-brand is more suited to the pre-teen audience. Throughout Forever 21 history, it has always focused on popular designs and adapted to the emerging pre-teen market.
- Love21 Contemporary: This is a contemporary line under Forever 21 that offers the same price as the other brands. Its target audience is over 21, and its focus is staying up to trend on all the latest fashion styles and pieces.
- Forever 21+: Since its creation in Forever 21 history, the Forever21+ brand has focused on plus-sized women. Curvy women have always loved the styles in the shop and finally, the brand opened up its sizing to allow for a larger and more inclusive demographic. Forever 21+ also offers a great price point for shoppers.
- 21Men: This sub-brand focuses on designing and tailoring outfits for men in their mid-20s. These designs remain up-to-date with new male fashion trends.
- Forever 21 Red: Forever 21 history shows the launching of this brand in 2015. It caters to price-conscious shoppers. Forever 21 features several clothing groups which are ideal for men and children.
- Riley Ross: This sub-brand was managed by the founder’s daughters, Esther and Linda Change. It is a sub-brand that covers the beauty and home item sectors. The brand focuses on millennials and Gen Z consumers.
Forever 21 Challenges
Although Forever 21 grew exponentially, the brand faced challenges during the growth process. Some of these include:
- The brand transitioning power
- Competition and price cutting
- Dilution of product quality
Brand Transitioning Power
Forever 21 history shows that Jin Sook and Do Won Don created the brand. It remains a privately held and family-owned company. Although Changs’ daughters will eventually take control of the company, there will be changes in how the company operates. While transitioning to new and younger leadership, it is essential that the brand that the Changs fought to build be remembered.
Competition and Price Cutting
Forever 21 continually reviews its pricing to provide consumers with competitive price points. As the fashion landscape shifts from runway to wearable, other brands are exploring the Forever 21-dominated market. As the brands continue to grow, focusing on location and overall development is essential. When the company achieves a customer reach better than its competitors, it will be able to combat this challenge head-on.
Dilution of Product Quality
As a brand whose most well-known quality is its low price point, it will need to keep offering competitive prices. However, in an effort to save money at different stages of production, the quality of Forever 21’s clothes seems to have reduced drastically. Additionally, customers are becoming more discerning and expecting better quality clothing. Therefore, Forever 21 will need to find a balance between its pricing and the quality of its product.
Forever 21 Growth Strategy
You can find a Forever 21 store on almost every continent. The Forever 21 brand continues to grow despite the challenges it faced over the years. Their ability to maintain a brand that covers different styles is one of the lessons to learn from Forever 21 history. Below, we’ve outlined some of the strategies the brand has used to stay not only relevant but a leader in the industry.
Use of Mobile and Online Technology
Forever 21 launched its shopping site quite early after noticing an increase in the e-commerce trend. A large percentage of Forever 21 sales comes from the website because it allows them to seamlessly reach customers on every side of the world.
In the brand’s mobile application, you can make purchases and rank their clothing. Since its creation in Forever 21 history, the rating tool on the mobile application has helped the design team understand customers’ tastes and preferences better. It also reduces the funds spent on mass item production when the target customer might not care for it. With this strategy, Forever 21 reaped twice the number of benefits and enjoyed an increase in marketing speed.
Forever 21 Product Strategy
Forever 21 history shows that the brand has been around for quite a while and have been able to continue expanding its offerings. The brand offers a wide range of clothing for men and women in different categories. They provide clothing options for everyone from kids to adults; therefore, you’re sure to find clothing that fits perfectly for your preference.
Apart from clothing, Forever 21 also sells accessories, including gloves, ties, watches, brooches, and many more items. Forever 21 also ventured into the footwear brand and offered wedges, sandals booths, etc. With each new product, they’ve been able to widen their range of potential customers as they steadily grew.
Target Marketing Strategy
Forever 21’s target demographic includes women of different ages. Throughout Forever 21 history, the brand’s design allows it to satisfy the varying fashion sense of women and men, from adults to teenagers. As a result, Forever 21 also made the list of the top 1000 internet retailers for teens and young adults. In addition, the brand carried out research showing that 45% of its online customers are millennial women.
Forever 21 Pricing Strategy
The brand is quite famous for its strategic pricing. It is continually offering pricing deals that meet the demands of the product. With affordable clothing at all points and discount deals, customers can take advantage of, Forever 21 can keep customers satisfied while expanding to new stores.
Forever 21 Distribution Strategy
Forever 21 history shows that the brand started in Los Angeles. However, the brand continues to spread across Europe, America, and Africa. Today, the brand owns over 600 stores and intends to reach countries like Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, etc. The brand’s strategic distribution planning allowed them to keep expanding over the years. Additionally, they also have a vast networking channel. This allows for easy distribution of its products and services to consumers.
Forever 21’s Promotional Strategy
Forever 21’s promotional strategy is how the brand successfully reaches its target audience when it comes to marketing its product. It carries a solid social media presence where it utilizes both traditional advertisements and more informal yet effective influencer marketing.
Additionally, these social media platforms facilitate better customer service and relations. The brand’s promotional strategies capitalize on its market share. From the number of Instagram, website, and Facebook followers these brands have, It’s clear that their promotional strategy using social media is quite effective.
Forever 21 History – Conclusion
Forever 21’s popularity continues to grow due to its many offerings. But, like its owners, Forever 21 history shows that the brand evolved from a single standpoint and remains one of the most prominent fashion retail brands. Over the years, the brand has successfully overtaken some of its competition while offering products at a low price point. This article sheds light on some of Forever 21’s challenges, and the marketing strategy used by the brand to build its customer base.