— Wet Seal (@wetseal) December 29, 2014
Yes I did love me some Wet Seal when I was a teenager. Floral pants. Funky hats. So many 90s girls were all about it. But nowadays, Wet Seal has fallen out of favor and it could be on its way out.
Unfortunately for the brand, it’s not just the ordinary folk grew up, but the icons from the 90s and early 2000s who also made Wet Seal a brand of choice during that wonderful period in fashion history. Says Buzzfeed:
Today’s twentysomethings might recall its work with Mandy Moore, who was 15 at the time. Wet Seal wanted the kind of girl who listened to her music, and that of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. It featured Ashanti on the cover of a 2002 catalog. It regularly held contests, giving away concert tickets for No Doubt, the Goo Goo Dolls, BBMak. It was able to use a picture of a model wearing a fur-lined coat and Carmen Sandiego hat while leading a burro through a field to successfully sell clothing to teenagers.
BBMak! Yasssssssss. Losing every bit of my mind right now.
Turns out that Wet Seal, at its highest point, was also the owner of Contempo Casuals and Arden B, which you might still see here and there .
The company seems to have fallen prey to its own lack of consistent leadership, but also to the inability to keep up with its evolving customer. Targeting teens and tweens is difficult. And these days – over-the-top affection for One Direction, 5SOS and Taylor Swift aside – this is a more sophisticated customer who is sharing trends and fads not through magazines like Teen Vogue and Seventeen, but on social media and through styles purchased at other stores that have stepped in to fill the void, H&M and Forever 21 among them. Unable to choose a path, the company’s offerings are “all over the place.”
Add to that the company had to pay $7.5 million it clearly could not afford to settle a lawsuit that showed the company purposely try to hide or fire Black workers to maintain some offensive and ridiculous idea about its brand image. And there are investor issues.
So Wet Seal has already said that staying in business might not be possible. And to be sure, there are plenty of other teen-focused fashion brands, Abercrombie & Fitch among them, that have hit rough financial times. But having confidence and a clear sense of purpose is key to any brand, especially one that’s aiming for a constantly shifting target. A lesson from the halls of your local high school: Be a leader, not a follower.