The junior problem: It’s not just about Abercrombie

There were plenty of comments at RetailWire upon the sudden resignation of Mike Jeffries, CEO at Abercrombie & Fitch. Although his company has made more than its share of mistakes over the past five years, I argue that some of the problems are endemic to the industry:

There are many issues at play here. First, it comes down to merchandise content: The mall-based junior retailers have been too slow to move to the “fast fashion” model of competitors like Forever 21, so their long-leadtime product development can put too much of the wrong product into their stores. The junior customer figured this out a long time ago.

Second, mall-based apparel traffic has suffered for years. The misses’ chains (Talbots, for example) have hardly done any better than their junior counterparts. There are too many fast-fashion and off-price options where the “treasure hunt” for variety is a compelling part of the shopping experience now.

Finally, the economics of the consumer have changed: First, the Great Recession put a damper on overall discretionary spending for apparel that has yet to recover fully. And the discretionary dollars have shifted dramatically, away from apparel and toward personal technology. One more element in this “perfect storm” for the junior industry.

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