Much to my own personal excitement, US fashion chain Forever 21 has opened its first stores in the UK. It’s the second major US chain to land on UK shores this year, following electricals chain Best Buy, which opened in the summer.
The first Forever 21 store, which opened in Birmingham, on Friday (12 November), was the first step of the fashion chain’s European venture.
A store in Dublin followed while a London outlet will open on Oxford Street next year.
I’ve been a fan of the Forever 21 brand since I lived in Virginia in the US. I spent an inordinate amount of my time and dollars stocking up on its fast fashion before retuning to the UK. I imagine that I will do the same on a regular basis when the chain comes to London next year.
In the US, Forever 21 is the equivalent of Topshop – but better. Its fashion is top notch, fast changing and affordable without the self-important air that Topshop wafts around.
Linda Chang, senior marketing manager of Forever 21, and also the daughter of the retail chain’s founder, told me that the brand will take the same strategic approach to marketing as it does in the US.
Forever 21 takes a similar approach to Primark in that it doesn’t launch high-profile advertising campaigns, preferring to invest in products and stores. It relies on customer buzz spread by word of mouth.
“We’ve never done much traditional advertising, we thrive on grass roots marketing,” she says.
Although Forever 21 has done billboard advertising around the stores in Birmingham and Dublin to drive interest in the openings, Chang says that there is already enough buzz about the brand in the UK from shoppers, like myself, that have been to stores in the US.
The store in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre has been likened in size to a Debenhams department store. That’s pretty big for a high street fashion brand.
Chang equates the excitement and experience of visiting a Forever 21 store to being in a candy store where you can get anything you could ever want.
“You have to come to the store to understand our approach to marketing because the stores really speak for themselves,” adds Chang.
With its prices ranging from around £5 for basics to £100 for a jacket, she says that Forever 21 allows shoppers to be “decadent but without feeling guilty about the price”.
The brand is confident that the strength of its reputation and the experience of its stores is enough to drive its business in the UK – it will be interesting to see how it pans out in the coming year and if its rivals feel it’s a threat.