Wet Seal started as a bikini shack in Newport Beach, CA in 1962. By the mid 1980’s they were known for offering trendy clothes to the most fashionable customers in Orange County. Wet Seal sold the right merchandise at the right time, and by 1995 they had enough capitol to buy 237 Contempo Casual stores from the Neiman Marcus Group. When Wet Seal went public in 1996 they realized they needed a marketplace for 20-35 year old females with a more contemporary look. With that thought, then CEO, Kathy Bronstein, created Arden B.
The venue was named after her daughter. Also in 2001, Wet Seal Inc. , felt the need for a venue just for the “tween market,” girls five to 12 years old. They bought out 18 Zutopia store units from Gymboree, Inc.
The store also expanded in 2001 by buying a majority of the Contempo Casual stores, and later merged web sites with Contempo Casuals that created one of the largest junior driven sites in the country. As like every retail organization, Wet Seal Inc. , has seen the best and worst during their years in business. With the 9/11 tragedy and other natural disasters, the nation’s economy had seen better days. Wet Seal Inc. stuck it out with Kathy Bronstein behind the wheel, and in late 2001 sales increased into the double digits, and stock was up 61% for the year.
A vendor partner stated, ” She’s one of the greatest merchants I know in the industry… she lives, eats, and breathes this junior business.” After two years of plummeting sales, and comments that they ” ve “lost touch with the thrifty, fashion obsessed teens,” Wet Seal Inc. hired a new chief executive, Peter Whitford. Peter Whitford was the former president of Walt Disney’s Disney Store operations. He also brought a talented team with him that included fashion designer, Victor Alfaro, and a teen-marketing expert, Anne K allin Zehren. To get good output for their new line, Zehren came up with an idea to hire 11 stylize rs to speak freely about Wet Seal fashions.
“We ” re having fashionable teens help us out,” Zehren states, and also adding that she hoped to recruit 50 stylize rs by the end of the year. The stylize rs are supposed to appear in ads, and add more appeal to the new clothing line. Marketing experts agreed with the idea of hiring every day girls as fashion muses, but they also stated that Wet Seal has to be really committed to this new idea. The ad campaign needs follow up, and will take effort to maintain. Teenagers need to have it constantly in their faces, or the brand will be easily forgotten because of the lack of advertising. The fashion world moves quickly, and if Wet Seal doesn’t have the right trends incorporated in their clothing, people will turn to other retail venues who are right on target.
As a habitual shopper, my experience with Wet Seal has always been half and half. Sometimes they could have the cutest tank tops, denim, and “clubbing shirts,” and then have clothing that is very outdated and sized wrong. One line Wet Seal has always provided that has always been trendy, are their accessories. There are sunglasses, varieties of jewelry, and floral pins for clothing. Also, I feel that a lot of the clothing is made with cheap fabric. The fabric likes to shrink when washed, and stretch out when worn.
With that in the back of my mind, I tend to purchase merchandise at different venues like Forever 21, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Bebe. The difference between these stores and Wet Seal are that they have class and durability, and Wet Seal only has that some of the time. Wet Seal definitely needs a face lift, and in order to attract the teenage fashion industry, they first need a good advertising team. They need to find people who are gifted enough to actually predict what the next big thing could be based on. They need trendy shoppers input, and ask them what they would like to see more of.
Second, they would need a woman to take over Peter Whitford’s place as CEO. I feel that a women’s point of view is more important when it comes to designing women’s clothing. They need to find someone who has a lot of experience with the young women’s retail market, and someone who is known for being a trendsetter in the industry. Wet Seal’s idea of hiring someone from the Disney Company seemed like an act of desperation.
Even though Whitford has shown a lot of effort, he still doesn’t have what it takes to compete with rival companies, H & M, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Thirdly, Wet Seal needs a new fashion designer, or a new source of trend forecasting. They need new ideas, new textiles, and an overall new look. They need a theme or a style to create a “Wet Seal” identity. These changes will change the whole image of the company. Starting with the advertising, I feel they need to incorporate more of the “thrift” look.
If they added more genuine thrift with more of an edge like Urban Outfitters has, they could maybe get more attention. Right now they have more of the “eighties” style, but more cheesy than genuine. They should also be up-to-date on their color schemes by adding more of the metallic colors like gold and silver to the line. For hiring a new CEO, Wet Seal should hire Stella Mc Cartney, or someone who is still young, but is very gifted in planning, organizing, and putting together a successful clothing and product line. Stella Mc Cartney seemed like a good choice because of her skill in fashion design, and the ability to be ahead of her times as a designer. To create an identity that will attract consumers to visit Wet Seal just as much as their leading rivals would take a lot of creative thinking.
They should go beyond the “stylize rs” and forget about what other people think of their fashion now. They need to create a solid foundation of what the company is based on, and a unique way of showing how committed they are to having the latest trends with the highest quality of textiles and materials. They need more edge, but with a touch of class. Wet Seal Inc. has come a long way from starting as a bikini shack.
In the last 45 years it has grown to be a multi-million dollar corporation with the help of Arden B. and Zutopia. They have been successful, but they have also struggled a big part of the time. I think that only makes a company stronger, and gives them the motivation to become more successful.
Bibliography 1. “Why Wet Seal?” document handed out 2. web “Wet Seal calls in Teen Stylize rs to Revive sales” by Stephanie Kang/ newspaper article.