The fate of employees at six of Forever 21’s nine Washington locations is in question after the fast-fashion retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late Sunday.
Forever 21, known for its affordable, puckish teen apparel, requested court approval to close up to 178 U.S. stores, about one-third of its American retail footprint, by the end of the year. But employees (and shoppers) still have some reason to hold out hope: In a letter posted to the company’s website Sunday, Forever 21 said not all the stores on the list would be shuttered, “pending the outcome of continued conversations with landlords.”
The company said that “a significant number of these stores will remain open and operate as usual, and we do not expect to exit any major markets in the U.S.”
Included on the list of potential Washington closures is Forever 21’s downtown Seattle location, at 601 Pine Street. Staff there haven’t yet been told whether they’re going to keep their jobs, said an employee who was not authorized to discuss the store closing.
A Forever 21 spokesperson declined to disclose how many Washington employees may be affected in the event of store closures.
Five other Forever 21 locations in Washington — at Bellevue Square, Southcenter, the Outlet Collection of Seattle in Auburn, Valley Mall near Yakima and the Trails at Silverdale — are also on the chopping block.
Locations at Alderwood mall, Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip and Tacoma Mall are safe, for now. The company said the stores it proposed closing were in locations outside of its major markets.
Nationally, retail giants have been shuttering brick-and-mortar operations under pressure from online competitors like Amazon. That trend is apparent in downtown Seattle, where Payless ShoeSource and Bed Bath & Beyond have closed shop, citing their inability to compete with online retail. Saturday, Macy’s announced it would close its flagship location at Third Avenue and Pine Street, part of a downsizing plan to let go of 100 stores.
If Forever 21’s local stores do close, that could pinch area mall owners already struggling to remain competitive. At Southcenter, for instance, Forever 21’s two-story lease occupies a sizable chunk of the mall for a nonanchor tenant. Southcenter owner Westfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Los Angeles-based Forever 21 said it has no plans to go out of business. Instead, the company wrote in its letter, “filing for bankruptcy protection is a deliberate and decisive step to put us on a successful track for the future.”