US fast-fashion retailer to go up against New Look and H&M on high street.
US fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 is to open more than 100 stores in the UK as part of a major assault on British high street stalwarts New Look and H&M.
Speaking exclusively to Drapers, Forever 21 executive vice-president Larry Meyer said locations including Liverpool, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh were high on his target list. “Multiple” London sites are also on his agenda, he said.
The retailer will make its UK debut with a 60,000 sq ft megastore in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre next month.
Meyer declined to give dates for the planned openings, but said: “[Store] size is also important. We are a location-driven retailer. We don’t have to rush but, if we find the right location, we’ll jump on it.”
Forever 21 has also rejected US retailers’ favoured model of straight dollar-to-pound price conversions and readjusted its prices specifically for the UK to pitch it against competitors including New Look and H&M. Some prices will even come close to those at core value retailers such as Primark, George at Asda and Matalan.
For autumn 10, cardigans which are sold at $10.50 (£6.62) in the US will translate to £9.50 in the UK. Jackets at $22.80 (£14.38) in the US will sell at £19.80 in UK stores and jeans at $9.50 (£6) will be £8.50 in the UK. However, more basic styles like leggings will simply swap the signs, $3.50 becoming £3.50.
“Competition is good for everyone. Every day is another day in retail and you have to stay on your toes,” said Meyer.
Forever 21’s customer profile and demographic will mirror its positioning in the US. Meyer said that in its domestic market some 20% of the chain’s customers were under 18 years old. About 45% of its customers are aged between 18 and 24, while the remaining 35% are aged 25 or above.
“In our bigger stores, such as the ones in the UK, the age range is somewhat older,” said Meyer.
The Bullring store will cover two floors, with an additional mezzanine level. It will stock womenswear and menswear. A second store in Dublin’s Jervis Shopping Centre will follow on November 13 and a deal for a third site at Westfield Stratford shopping centre in east London has been signed.
Property agent Harper Dennis Hobbs acts for the retailer.
Fast fashion - the rapid rise of Forever 21
Forever 21 was founded in 1984 as a single, 900 sq ft store called Fashion 21 in Los Angeles by South Korean Dong-Won Chang and his wife, Jin Sook. The store generated sales of $700,000 (£441,589) in its first year of trading, which gave Chang the confidence and cash to quickly roll out the concept, initially opening at a rate of one store every six months.
It was one of the first chains in the US to embrace the concept of fast fashion - delivering catwalk looks at value prices on six-week average lead times - and is often cited by UK multiples as the only US retailer to employ a fast-fashion model comparable to UK chains like New Look. Its arrival in the UK will undoubtedly make its competitors look over their shoulders.
It sells menswear, womenswear, kidswear, accessories, footwear and lingerie.
Chang remains the chief executive and owner of the business, which has about 500 stores in the US, Canada and selected Asian markets, from which it sells own brands such as Forever 21, I Love H81 and Forever 21+.
Very little is known about Chang or his wife, who shun interviews.
The pair, who are billionaires, are said to be committed Christians, which is why “John 3:16”, a reference to one of the most famous and widely quoted verses of the Bible, is printed on the bottom of Forever 21’s yellow shopping bags.