July 7, 2015

Worst Behavior

I've been talking a lot about retailers lately, but the retail landscape is in such an interesting state of change that I can't help but give my two cents. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to vent about a recent development at one of my local malls.

In my city, there is one mall that everyone goes to. It is the ne plus ultra of malls where I live, and people will travel from all ends of the city to shop there. During its expansion and renovation a few years back, Forever 21 became one of the highly anticipated tenants. It was the only Forever 21 available in the city, and it occupied a vast area of square footage (as all Forever 21 stores do). The store was always teeming with women (young and old), and when I went shopping with friends, we'd never fail to take a look inside. If you've followed my blog since its early days, you'll know I'm hardly a fan of Forever 21, but I certainly do not deny it as a strong force in the retail industry.

So when a shocked co-worker of mine appeared by my desk with news that Forever 21 had closed down, neither of us could believe it. We were stupefied. It is unimaginable to think Forever 21 had been lacking in profits. Could it be that the rent for such a large store was too much even for the fast fashion giant? After all, Forever 21 had nearby neighbours of Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, Anthropologie, Free People, Michael Kors, Burberry and Nordstrom...only to name a few. Our mall has been working to craft a higher-end image, and perhaps the neighbouring tenants hiked up the cost of rent. But even so, we were not convinced such a highly successful retailer would find itself crumbling. Perhaps it wasn't that Forever 21 wasn't good enough for us, but that we weren't good enough for it?

Regardless, while the loss of Forever 21 does not sadden me, I found myself peeved by the retailer that ended up replacing it: Urban Behavior.

The only Urban Behavior store I've seen before was in one of our dingy malls - one whose only claim to fame is a Walmart. In fact, according to that mall's most current list of stores, it appears even it has ousted Urban Behavior. For all I know, Urban Behavior is basically a struggling retailer. So why is it now occupying prime retail space in our biggest mall?

Clearly, the explanation escapes me. As cheap as Forever 21 is, at least it makes the effort to offer trendy clothing. Urban Behavior, on the other hand, makes poor quality clothing in very typical, uninspiring designs. There is certainly a place in the market for such brands - there are many shoppers out there simply looking for what they call "cheap, cute clothes" - but does a store like Urban Behavior really deserve such a prime retail location? In contrast to Forever 21's bright, gleaming storefront, the Urban Behavior storefront is now dim and gaudy, making it a bit of an eyesore against its higher-end neighbours. In all honesty, I can't deny there is a part of me that hopes I won't be seeing Urban Behavior in that space for much longer.

Image Source: Forever21, Urban Behavior

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