“After careful consideration, the Board of Directors unanimously concluded that filing for Chapter 11 was the appropriate course of action for the Company,” said chief executive Ed Thomas, in a news release. “Overall, we continue to believe in The Wet Seal and remain committed to executing on the strategic steps that we already started.”
Wet Seal was a darling of high-school girl shoppers two decades ago, a destination for then-trendy items such as flare-leg jeans and tube tops. But its decline mirrors that of many of its rivals who have struggled to remain relevant in an era when fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Forever 21 have brought trends to store shelves with unprecedented speed and efficiency.
The disruption created by fast-fashion chains also extends to more casual, preppy teen retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters, Aeropostale and Abercrombie & Fitch. All have seen lackluster sales in recent years as they clung to the logo-emblazoned hoodies and t-shirts that had rocketed them to success in the 1990s. Michael Jeffries, the long-time Abercrombie chief executive and the primary architect of the brand’s look and feel, left the company in December, perhaps the clearest concession yet that Abercrombie’s aesthetic is no longer relevant to teen shoppers.
Wet Seal has received an offer of financing from B. Riley & Co. that could potentially help it turn around its business. To thrive it will likely have to make major changes to keep with the breakneck pace of design and supply chain gymnastics that H&M and Forever 21 have mastered.