SAN FRANCISCO — National contemporary women’s fashion retailer Bebe Stores Inc. is looking to leverage its midmarket brand name in a new lower-priced retail concept targeting a younger clientele.
Like other retailers, Bebe has seen sales flag as the economic downturn tightens. In response, the company is testing a concept store, 2b. It targets young sophisticates from 15 to 25 who aspire to shop at Bebe, known for its sexy, edgy twist on fashion trends and whose customers are in their 20s to 40s. Prices are 20 percent to 50 percent lower than Bebe.
Located in Daly City, Calif., near San Francisco, the 4,800-square-foot store is in the regional Serramonte Mall, five miles from Bebe’s corporate headquarters in Brisbane. Macy’s and Target are anchors. Among 2b’s competitors in the mall is Max Rave, owned by BCBG Max Azria, whose midmarket contemporary fashion stores also compete with Bebe. Other young contemporary fashion tenants include Forever 21, Hollister, Hot Topic and Wet Seal.
Chief executive officer Greg Scott said 2b is an offshoot of the company’s successful outlet stores, 2b bebe, where marked-down Bebe inventory is supplemented with new, value-priced merchandise with Bebe styling.
“We knew value [to the consumer] was becoming very important, so we decided to take the value concept and test it in a regional center that might not have a Bebe because of demographics or cotenancy issues,” Scott said.
The 2b store, which opened this month, retains a flashy Bebe-store aesthetic that Scott said was intended to look like a nightclub. The store is hard to miss, with its long display window framed in black and offset by bright marquee lighting and bold graphics, such as an oversize pink heart. The interior is largely black and white.
There’s an emphasis on 2b merchandise with the distinctive Bebe bling logo, like $49 jewel-tone velour hoodies folded on a table in the center of store. There is a wide selection of $49 camisole-style tops with beaded, embroidered or sequin details, to pair with $29 2b skinny jeans or twill hip-huggers. Other fashions include $59 mini safari dresses in various colors and $79 sleeveless sequined flapper dresses.
“You can definitely dress yourself under $100,” Scott said.
The 2b test comes as same-store sales of the core Bebe brand in October fell 20 percent from a year ago, which Scott said was a surprisingly large drop that coincided with the loss in consumer wealth as stock prices plunged. Bebe does not issue monthly same-store sales reports, but Scott discussed the October results during a quarterly earnings call with analysts. The next call is scheduled for Jan. 8.
Consumers who did shop at one of the company’s 311 U.S. stores also shifted their long-standing preferences from dresses to casual pants, tops, sweaters and jackets. Now, all Bebe dresses are being discounted 50 percent, including $159 leopard minis or the $189 Tropic Temptress Halter.
For the retailer’s latest quarter ending Sept. 30, comp-store sales were off 10.8 percent compared with the same period in 2007, which saw sales decline 9.3 percent.
Wall Street analysts who track Bebe consider the 2b concept territory for the retailer to mine.
“Bebe is a recognizable brand in contemporary fashion,” said Jeffrey Van Sinderen, a retail analyst at B. Riley & Co., Los Angeles. He said this strong identity with a fashion brand gives 2b an edge on many competitors because consumers will want to buy something that’s related to Bebe. In contrast, Van Sinderen said when shoppers buy a fashionable frock at Forever 21, “they aren’t going to wear it because it’s a Forever 21 brand.”
There’s also room in the contemporary fashion market at affordable prices, Van Sinderen said. “We don’t know how long the economy is going to be difficult,” he said.
Analyst Janet Kloppenburg of JJK Research in New York said 2b’s well-edited fashion selection could be a crowd pleaser among shoppers used to scouring competitors’ crammed apparel racks. “It’s probably prudent for Bebe to test the waters on value pricing and see if they can turn it into a bigger bang, longer term,” Kloppenburg said. “It’s great for them to address the aspirational Bebe customer.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye