Thursday, January 22, 2009

Where you won't shop in 2009

This makes it look like Lane Bryant may be among one of the many businesses that fail this year.
More pain is on the way. One-third of U.S. women recently surveyed by America's Research Group said they plan no clothing purchases--none--in 2009. Normally, it's just 4%. That means the market is still far too saturated with stores.
Expect closings and bankruptcies to rattle the likes of Lane Bryant, Gap, and Starbucks. It's the inevitable counterpunch to the days of retailers fighting hand over fist for market share during an era of loose credit and minuscule interest rates.

I don't know why they seem to think the market is too saturated with stores for fat women, I sure haven't seen an over-abundance of them, has anyone else? If Lane Bryant isn't getting a big enough market share from fat women, could it be that they aren't selling the clothes fat women want to wear? Could it possibly be that Lane Bryant made a big mistake by not using fat models/mannequins to showcase their clothing? Or maybe it was the decision to change details on classic items that women buy all the time (like removing pockets from their knit pants), or using cheap-ass fabric, stinky fabric, and cutting back on the variety they offer.
Retailers at risk in 2009, he thinks, include outerwear specialist Eddie Bauer and teen-apparel-seller Pacific Sunwear, along with Zales, the big jewelry chain. All three shuttered at least 8% of their U.S. stores last year, with many more closings expected. The same is largely true of Charming Shoppes, the owner of Lane Bryant, which closed 150 stores last year. With a mountain of debt and losses totaling over $260 million over the most recent 12-month reporting period, the company will close another 100 locations this year.

Ok, now is it just going to be Lane Bryant stores that close, or will it also be Catherine's and Fashion Bug locations also? I've shopped all 3 stores, when I lived within driving distance (and 120 miles is not driving distance, not for me, not just to shop for clothes).
Fat women have a hard enough time finding clothing to fit (especially that is affordable), and with these stores closing, it's going to be even more difficult. Ann Taylor is another one on the list, they're doing better than LB, but have let people go, and aren't planning on opening the 85 stores they had in the works before the economy tanked.
Sears-KMart may not make it through the year either. Now, KMart, I could give a rat's ass if they survive (other than I hate to see their employees without jobs). I haven't shopped there in years, mainly because their women's clothing sizes are so limited if you wear anything over a size 16 (and their service sucks, or it did the last time I shopped there). Sears, well, I don't shop there either, unless it's for tools (Craftsman has a kick-ass guarantee), but most places that sell tools nowadays have a similar guarantee.
I think things are going to get a hell of a lot worse before they start to get better, so I may just start hitting the fabric sales and stocking up on fabric to make clothes to replace the ones that wear out. This kind of situation makes me damned glad I know how to sew and own a sewing machine.


  1. I blogged about the Lane Bryant/Fashion Bug closings here and lots of employees chimed in with how Charming gave them the shaft. By the end of this year, provided Charming plans no more closings, the 250-store closings will mean a 10 percent store closure across the board. As for Lane Bryant... not a fan. My dad works at a subsidiary of Charming, so I can get a 40 percent discount if I wanted. The problem is, I don't like most of Lane Bryant's clothes and even with the discount I think they're overpriced.

    And as a former employee of a bank owned by Charming... don't ever get a Fashion Bug or Lane Bryant credit card. Trust me on this.

  2. If Sears went under, that would be devastating. They are practically an institution. I don't even want to think about how many people they employ. They own Lands' End also.

    Agreed about the LB clothes, Rachel. I've bought almost nothing from them other than Right Fit jeans (which I still love, but I still have the one pair I bought in late 2007) and soft-cup bras. For their price point, Lands' End stuff is usually a better deal, much less flimsy (although past about a size 24 or 26, they're admittedly not much help). I'd be more upset about Lands' End going away than LB, truth be known.

    Andee (Meowser)

  3. This is already happening with clothes for guys over here in the UK. Most places have cut back their menswear departments to about 5-10% of floor area, and given how elusive the larger sizes were even during the boom times, they've become like hens' teeth in the depression.

    I suspect most places that survive (and there won't be many, if things go on falling apart at the present rate) will concentrate on their core areas - ie thin women's wear and teen girl stuff, and anyone who doesn't fall into those categories will have a very hard time indeed.

  4. This really concerns me. I can barely find clothing as it is!

  5. A different perspective.

    First to state my bias… I’m on the smaller end of the plus size scale and ware a 14/16. At first people look at me then when I tell then what size I am they don’t believe me but I am.
    Ok Perhaps its the demographic changes form were you are and were I’m at that wants me to but in... I work at a Lane Bryant store in Iowa. I’ve worked there for a little over a year now but started buying their clothing two years prior to my working there. I’ve never in the three years I’ve worked there had a problem with my clothing except maybe the socks. Also our clientele love our cloths and we are constantly getting compliments on it. Now I know LB isn’t going to float everyone’s boat, but give us a little more credit... we do actually strive to make a good product. And I’ll admit I’ve seen some things that I would not have been so proud to put a Lane Bryant tag on but I’m also not scared of tell my corporate so. I have also seen things that we have gotten in that made me wonder “And they were on what drug when they thought of this?”

    So now my question for you is what do you recommend we do to better ourselves? And how would we go about making fat mannequins when there are so many different definitions for “fat“?

    I look forward to your response.

  6. How to make fat mannequins? I think a good start would be to find several fat women of different sizes, say a size 18, a size 22, and a size 28, with different shapes (apple, pear, and hourglass, for example), take lots of measurements, and make mannequins from those measurements. For an even wider variety, you could add in women of those sizes and shapes that have small, medium, and large bustlines. That would give a store/catalog at least 81 different plus-size mannequins from which to choose and would give customers a much better idea of how the clothing will look on their particular body.
    Customer service could stand to be improved in the stores I've visited. I don't know if sales associates are given any training, but from what I've seen, it seems not (and most of the SAs are young, late teens to mid-20s). They don't wait on you unless you're young and on the smaller side of plus-size (I'm old and on the top-most side of plus). They like to stand around talking with each other and texting/talking on their cell phones instead of helping me find what I want. As far as clothes go, I realize that it's very hard to hit the right balance of quality, quantity, and pricing in order to sell items, but I really hate buying a top that's long enough on me until I wash it that first time. After that first washing, it's about 4 inches too short (and that's an unacceptable amount of shrinkage) and good for nothing but the ragbag (ever try to find another woman who wears a 5X and is willing to wear a top that shows off her belly?). Those are just a couple of ideas I have, I have enough other ideas that I could probably write a small

  7. Lane Bryant designs have been consistently atrocious for the past 2-3 years, Catherine's has always been awful and for some reason Fashion Bug fell off the rocker last year. I noticed today that Lane Bryant's new line is like a throwback to the days when the clothing was designed with respect for the plus size market, rather than the contempt wafting on hangers I've had to see for the last few years.

    The failure is about disrespecting their market; there are certainly plenty of fledgling plus stores that have been pulling ahead becasue of Lane Bryant's flawed design ethic.


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