Ding dong, your childhood is dead. First the long-beloved teen chain Delia*s went the way of the dinosaurs (*cries*), now several news outlets have reported that Wet Seal's business is in trouble too. Despite the resurgence of everything '90s, we just can't save our favorite mall chains from back in the day. Can we blame H&M? I'm going to blame H&M.
Wet Seal, Delia*s "bad influence" of a best friend, "the Forever 21 of our day," as Jezebel's Clover Hope puts it, purveyor of the fastest of fast fashion, is struggling to say afloat in these modern times. Here's some businessspeak on the matter, courtesy of an exhaustive report by BuzzFeed's Sapna Maheshwari:
Wet Seal, which was among the hottest teen retailers in the ’90s and early 2000s, is the latest chain running out of reasons to exist. It announced in a quarterly filing this month that based on recent losses, “there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.” Its stock closed Friday at 5 cents a share, after announcing late Thursday that its executive overseeing stores and operations will resign on Jan. 2. Its lender, Bank of America, has tightened the reins, keeping a close eye on its cash levels.
Prospects are looking bleak for the once ultra-hip store, largely due to the fact that Wet Seal has totally lost site of who its customer is, resulting in a brand identity crisis. According to Maheshwari, "Wet Seal’s merchandise is confusingly all over the place — it carries sassy Nasty Gal-type T-shirts, “festival-going” wear you might find at Free People, and general fast-fashion basics you’d see at Forever 21, in what seems like a bid to see what sticks."
Wet Seal simply doesn't have the cache it once did among teenagers, probably thanks to more fashion-conscious brands like Zara, Urban Outfitters, and (yes) H&M taking center stage. The company is taking steps to try and boost sales by appealing to an older and more diverse audience, but there's no telling yet whether these strategies will pay off in the long run.