Thursday, May 19, 2016

Aeropostal Goes Bankrupt - Lessons in Mall Fashions

Once a coveted item at the trendy mall store, now a 10-cent garage-sale purchase.

I have mocked Aeropostal in the past as an example of the overpriced crap that kids like to buy.   If you don't have the hot sneaker or the hot shirt or the hot hat, you are deemed to be a dweeb.  So the kids spend $50 on a t-shirt just to "look cool" and a few months later it languishes in a closet.

In the meantime, they don't realize that to adults, they look like a dweeb for having "Aeropostal" or "Hollister" or "Benneton" plastered across their chest.

I knew Aeropostal was going to hit the skids soon when our personal garage sale shopper showed up with an Aeropostal hat like the one shown above.   She said, "I thought you might like this and it was only ten cents!"   So, we took it, because for 10 cents, it was appropriately priced and kept the sun off your head.

I can only imagine what the original owner paid for it.  

But apparently these things have a half-life of about five years, and it is no longer "cool" to wear Aeropostal as old people are wearing the stuff after finding it at garage sales.  I speculated that the company might go out of business.   Now the company has gone bust:
AĆ©ropostale Inc. is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection this week and close more than 100 stores, according to people familiar with the matter, as the teen-apparel retailer contends with mounting losses and falling sales.
New York-based AĆ©ropostale plans to seek chapter 11 protection in the next few days before May rent payments are due, the people said. It is in advanced talks with specialty lender Crystal Financial LLC on a loan to finance its operations in bankruptcy, they added.
The retailer would close more than 100 of its roughly 800 stores soon after filing and potentially more later, the people said. The company plans to reorganize around its remaining stores, but the precise contours of its restructuring plan remain unclear, they added.
A number of mall-based specialty retailers have filed for bankruptcy in recent years as declining mall traffic, changing consumer tastes and competition from "fast-fashion" chains like Hennes & Mauritz AB and Fast Retailing Co.'s Uniqlo eat into their sales.
Teen retailer Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., known as PacSun, sought bankruptcy last month, citing the "shifting retail landscape." In 2015, women's formalwear retailer Cache Inc., teen-focused Wet Seal and surfwear seller Quiksilver Inc. filed for chapter 11 protection.
Of course, to "old people" this whole idea of basing the value of something on what name is plastered on it seems foolish.   I guess (no pun intended) it started in the 1970's when "designer jeans" became popular.  Hippies wore blue jeans, and no on really cared which brand you had.   Levis became trendy with gays - particularly the button-fly 501 style.   But frankly, if you want a good pair of jeans, go to a Western wear store and buy a pair of "boot cut" Wranglers.  They are cheap, last forever, and don't have stupid rivets on them to tear up the upholstery in your car.  Levis suck, period.   And please, no "pre-distressed" jeans - that shit is idiotic.

But I digress.

In the 1980's all the girls from Long Island wore "Benneton" sweaters when I was at Syracuse University.   They were just green and white sweaters with the word "Benneton" in foot-high letters across the front.

Why would you want the brand name in large letters on the front?

Something had changed in our society.  Suddenly, it wasn't enough to have "nice clothes" but they had to be a particular brand.   And maybe this was because more and more clothes were being made overseas and people no longer wore "suits" (whose quality could be determined by the discerning eye, not by a brand blasted across the front).

When I asked the girls who wore these sweaters why they bought them, they looked at me like I was some clueless moron.  "Because they're cool!" the said.   And everyone else in the sorority had the same sweater or one like it.  So to "fit in" they bought them.   It was the beginning of college turning into High School 2.0

Image result for the onion kelly smokin jacket
I am not just picking on the girls.  The guys back then had to have brand-name merchandise as well.   Remember "Members Only"?

And over time, the trend has accelerated.  Today, we are accustomed to having brand names plastered in large letters on much of our clothing.   And if not a brand name, we are walking advertisements for commercial products and services.   Owning or wearing "plain" clothes without something written on it is deemed to be odd.   Only a poor person would wear a jacket or shirt without a corporate logo or brand name on it!

But it is funny - fashion is fickle.    And in the old days, the "fashion store" could stay in business by changing its product mix to keep up with the times and trends.   Today, single-brand stores are popular, so long as the name of the brand (as plastered on all of the merchandise) is considered coveted and cool.   Once the cool-factor wears off, the entire company goes bankrupt and the store closes.   It is an interesting change in the paradigm of retailing.

Abercrombie & Fitch, who once sold elephant guns and fly rods to Ernest Hemingway, became a teen retailer and similarly saw its fortunes wax and wane.   Fortunately for them, they were able to create "spin-off" brands such as "Hollister" which is the new "name" t-shirt to have today.   Oddly enough teens covet the Hollister brand, but would not be caught dead today in an Abercrombie shirt.   If only they knew!

Of course, the entire point of "brands" as they were originally envisioned, was to allow consumers to determine the source of goods or services - that is the definition under Trademark Law.   You sought out a reliable brand not because you wanted to show off the brand to friends and strangers, but because you knew that brand was reliable.   Today, it is all switched around.   Everything is made in China and is of about the same quality level.   The only distinguishing feature of a "Hollister" shirt is the name on the front.   You are literally buying a Trademark to wear, not an actual piece of clothing.  Or more succinctly, the cost of clothing is incidental to the transaction - the bulk of the "cost" and the value to the consumer is in being able to display the brand.

It is, in a way, hilarious.   And it illustrates how people are sheep.   You tell people that it is desirable to drive a nail into their forehead, and within a week, you will see thousands or millions of people with nails sticking out of their head.   Oh, wait, that sounds a lot like the body-piercing trend, doesn't it?   Once again, I try to be sarcastic and it comes too close to reality because reality is so ridiculous today.

But it is ridiculous.  And if you were to say that people are going into credit card debt so they can overpay for a t-shirt with someone's name plastered on it, in the abstract, you would think that was insane.   But it is the reality of modern consumerism.

And we wonder why we're broke!