Commentary

What's Not to Love About Forever 21?

On any given night, on a not-so-infrequent basis, you can find me at the Forever 21 store in New York’s Times Square. Call it a guilty pleasure or perhaps a convenient stop at 11 p.m. after a business dinner; however, I just can’t help myself from stopping in on my way back to my hotel. At that hour, the store is still buzzing with deal-seeking fashionistas. 

Last week, once again I found myself in Forever 21 at midnight — this time with my teenager and her friend. It’s a rare occurrence for me to not be in the mood to shop, but on this particular occasion, I decided to step back and observe the crowd (an occupational hazard). What I noticed is that while Forever 21 has several distinct brand identifiers, very few are mom friendly.  Although I didn’t leave the store that night with the iconic yellow and black plastic bag, I did leave with a list I titled on my iPhone, “Learning How Not To Market To Moms the Forever 21 Way.”

1) In Store: There are two major problems with the inside of a Forever 21 store when it comes to pleasing moms. It begins with the marble stone floors that make it very difficult to access wireless service. You are probably wondering why a mom would complain that her teenager doesn’t have cell service while shopping. However, what this means to the mom shopping solo for her kids is that she can’t text pictures of her would-be purchases to her children for approval. This obstacle becomes even more important as the Z Generation of women become mothers in the next 10 years. In fact, in one of our recent surveys, 90% of Millennial moms say they text an image from a retail dressing room. In other retail stores, a mom might just buy the items and return them later, which brings up my next “How Not To.” 

2) Return policy: The cashier asks you if you are aware of the return policy. However, as most moms know, there really isn’t a return policy because the policy is very restrictive. It makes moms much more cautious if they know the item(s) can’t be returned or exchanged easily. This can make the difference between a browse through the store and a purchase, particularly if moms (like me) shop for their daughters on business trips. Moms want to know that the retailer where they are spending their money is a partner in solutions as well. 

3) Store Layout: Moms are tired, and there are no seats anywhere in Forever 21. In fact, they actually have security guards who walk the floors to ensure that no one is sitting on fixtures or floors. To please the people who control the majority of the money, Forever 21 should have some kind of seating to facilitate a mom’s long wait outside the dressing room where her daughter inevitably will spend hours trying on clothes. It’s the first rule of mom marketing: The longer mom stays in a retail location with her children, the more likely she is to spend money.  Provide her a seat and keep her in the store. 

When moms visit a Forever 21 or any store targeting tweens or teens, retailers should make sure that these moms are, at a minimum, comfortable and even entertained while their daughters buzz around the store, taking selfies. The equations are simple: happy moms + child browsing = more purchases. 

Forever 21 is a successful brand with a winning formula for reaching its target market. These observations are from both sides of the fence; as a mom who makes purchases for her daughter and as a professional who always looks for ways that a business can improve or implement strategies for marketing to moms, the most powerful consumer.

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