Fashion retailer Forever 21 will close its Chinese e-commerce website amist indications of possible physical store closures to come.
While an April 25 notice on the brand’s home page confirms the e-commerce shutdown, the retailer has declined to issue any official comments, despite the confirmed shuttering of one physical outlet and major discount sales reportedly underway in other stores. It has been operating in the territory since 2011.
Tmall and JD have released statements indicating that the fashion retailer will cease trading on their platforms from today onward.
The brand’s last remaining store in Taiwan closed last month, while stores in other markets have reportedly been closing down as well, including France. Forever 21’s multi-storey flagship in Hong Kong closed in 2016, with the space being taken over by Victoria’s Secret. It opened a smaller store on Mong Kok in its place.
A report in Retail Dive suggested that the possible withdrawal accords with a slowing retail environment within China for international goods, pointing to the withdrawal of Amazon from the territory after investing in the market for 15 years.
“Overall this is a big and tough market to compete for non-Chinese brands, given strong domestic competition and unique consumer demands,” said China practice lead at global public policy consultancy Access Partnership Xiaomeng Lu. “Domestic e-commerce giants such as Alibaba, JD.com, and Pinduoduo compete fiercely against each other as well as edge out smaller brands.
“Chinese customers are used to shopping on apps, expect low-cost same-day shipping, and tend to have little brand loyalty.”
The report also quotes Euromonitor International analyst Arianna Zhai as commenting “Alibaba and JD alone have taken about 70 per cent market share. The strong presence and different strategic positions of both e-commerce retailers leave limited room for others.”
“The reasons for the shutdown of operations are unclear, but it is likely that Forever 21 has struggled to cut through in what is an increasingly competitive market,” said GlobalData Retail MD Neil Saunders. “Although the Chinese retail market is still growing strongly and offers enormous potential, the proliferation of Western and indigenous brands means it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. There are also concerns that activity is slowing down, although growth remains well above that available in Western markets.”