Could fast fashion chains be filling the void of failing department stores?

Published: Jan. 8, 2019 at 9:47 PM CST
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Action 2 News reported the Sears anchor store at the Fox River Mall in Grand Chute faced liquidation, but on Tuesday Sears lawyers reached a deal to keep 425 stores afloat if certain conditions are met.

Sears is trying hard to avoid the experiencing same fate as Younkers and Toys 'R' Us stores in Northeast Wisconsin.

Marketing experts say department stores like Sears are fading out. Now some are being replaced by what's called "fast fashion" stores. Experts say fast fashion is inexpensive clothing and it keeps up with the latest trends. It is mass produced quickly and is fueled by younger generations.

"Millennials and Generation Z's, I think they have different tastes when compared to their parents and their grandparents. They want to purchase products that are authentic, that are experiential, that reflect the most current fashion trends, and also they want to do it in an inexpensive manner, they don't want to spend a lot of money," said Wenkai Zhou, a marketing professor at UW-Green Bay.

On Tuesday, fast fashion chain H&M announced it would open a 20,000 square foot store inside Grand Chute's Fox River Mall. The announcement comes just two weeks after Sears first announced it would close its Grand Chute location.

Zhou says failing department stores lack digital integration and a reflection of current trends.

"I don't mean that they don't have a digital presence -- they very much do -- but what I mean is that in current and in the 21st century, I think the future in retail will belong to something known as 'Omnichannel Retailing,' basically they need to really integrate their online and offline presences," Zhou adds.

Zhou says fast fashion is growing at a rapid rate.

H&M says its upcoming Fox River Mall location will be "a store within a store" and have sections for men, women, and kids.

"More and more consumers are realizing that they want to be able to follow the trend, they want to be able to dispose clothes or accessories that they no longer want, and by getting these items at a cheaper price, it allows them to actually do that," said Zhou.

The Foundation for Economic Education says the apparel industry isn't slowing down. It has a projected 5.91 percent growth over the next two years. The FEE says by 2020 the apparel industry will reach $1.65 trillion in sales. That's a 60 percent increase since 2011.

The H&M at Fox River Mall is expected to open this fall.