The past several years have seen many popular clothing chains shuttering locations, making it more difficult for consumers to shop for the latest trend. Talbots, a middle-aged women’s clothing chain, is among the list of retailers closing stores nationwide. While other retailers have faced similar circumstances, Talbots’ transformation from beloved downtown anchor to struggling to stay afloat has been enlightening. This article explores the reasons behind the closure and highlight other clothing chains that have faced struggles.
The Decline of Talbots
Talbots began its operations in 1947, selling quality clothing to middle-aged women. Talbots was known for its affordability and offered timeless style. However, in recent years, Talbots has suffered from several stumbling blocks that led to store closures.
As with any chain, the saturation of similar retailers in a given area can leave consumers with fewer options. With fewer customers to draw on, it can be difficult to stay afloat. This has been a contributing factor to Talbots closing nearly 400 stores.
With an engaged consumer base comes an expectation of stylish clothing. Many customers found Talbots styles to be dated, relying on styles that hadn’t changed in years. Talbots needed to shift their focus to keeping up with the changing trends if it wanted to capture the customer base it once held.
The affordability of Talbots ran out of steam as the chain grew more competition. Talbots was expensive compared to similar retailers, and shoppers had no problem looking elsewhere. Furthermore, online retailers that offer cheaper products than a physical store have only hurt the business.
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Talbot’s had the option to try and accommodate online shoppers, both through online stores and shipping options, but they frequently failed to execute. On the few occasions they attempted an online presence, the product was too limited, far too expensive, and failed to compete with other online retailers. As a result, Talbots has been unable to capture new customers and has suffered as a result.
Talbots has made several attempts to stay competitive and meet the needs of the modern customer. Many stores now feature newer and more modern styles, and the company has given themselves a face lift. The company launched a new website in 2017, which has allowed customers to shop in a more modern way. This has received mixed reviews, but it’s a step in the right direction for the brand.
Other Clothing Chains Also Struggling
While Talbots has been the most visible decline in the clothing sector, many other clothing chains have also struggled to find their place in the modern market. Other retailers shuttering locations include:
• Gap: The legendary Gap stores have seen a drastic decline in recent years. In 2020, Gap announced it was closing 230 stores.
• Ann Taylor: The once popular women’s clothing chain has struggled to draw in customers. In 2019, Ann Taylor announced it was closing 53 stores.
• J.Crew: Once a leader in the clothing market among men and women, J.Crew has struggled to keep up with the affordable prices of competitors. In 2017, they announced they were closing 39 stores.
• Abercrombie & Fitch: The retailer known for its young, hip clothing, has closed locations as the company shifts focus to its Hollister brand. In 2018, Abercrombie & Fitch announced it was closing three stores.
• Diesel USA: Diesel, best known for its assortment of jeans for men, has not been able to keep up in the ever-changing market. In 2019, Diesel USA announced it was closing all of its locations.
Online Retailers Offer a New Threat
The primary reason for the struggles in the physical clothing retail sector is the competition from online retailers. With online retailers able to offer clothing at a fraction of the price of physical stores, shoppers are heading online rather than to the mall. The convenience and cost of online shopping can be a powerful draw, and many clothing stores have been unable to keep up with the competition.
The current state of clothing retail points to a market that is still changing and searching for its place. With the rise of online retailers and unique boutiques, the major chains of days gone by may not be able to survive. Talbots, and the other clothing retailers listed, are only a few of the companies that are struggling to stay ahead. Whether they can make the necessary changes to keep up with the competition remains to be seen.