Are Online Clothing Stores Destroying Retail?

Forever 21 is filing for bankruptcy after 35 years in business. Once the titan of the fast-fashion industry, Forever 21 has lost its edge to cheaper, trendier choices, and online stores. Forever 21 markets itself on trendy clothes at affordable prices, which is why it was a staple for all of my middle school mall visits. However, as online stores become more popular than physical ones, Forever 21 just couldn’t keep up, even with their own options to purchase online.

Plenty of retail clothing stores have been on the decline in recent years, notably JCPenney, Sears, and Macy’s. Twenty or thirty years ago if you suggested that these powerful retailers might be going out of business you would have been laughed at, but now we take it for granted. This could be the same fate that awaits Forever 21. Bankruptcy is not the same as going out of business though, so we don’t know if this will be the end of Forever 21.

Its main competitors are online stores that offer even cheaper clothes at an even quicker turnaround. Forever 21 might be the original fast-fashion giant, where instead of having two or even four seasons, it has a season at least every month, if not more often, each season bringing a whole new array of styles.

However, many online stores now have even faster turnaround that isn’t reliant on so-called seasons but instead on constantly adding new products. Forever 21 cannot compete with online retailers that are beating it at its own game. Fast-fashion is one of the most corrupt businesses to be in terms of ecological impact and the social and gendered impact in the developing countries which manufacture the clothes, so I will not be shedding tears if Forever 21 closes it’s doors forever. However, its online competitors such as Shein, Fashion Nova, Wish, and many others are just as bad if not worse, so it is hard to count this as a win.