The Wet Seal LLC is feeling pretty good about holiday.
The Irvine, Calif.-based retailer, which moved into new headquarters from Foothill Ranch earlier this year, is preparing for the selling season with a multipronged strategy. First, it’s capitalizing on the period with 13 pop-up shops that will bring it back to markets, such as Atlanta, which it had exited during its bankruptcy last year.
“We’ve had customers come to us from markets where we exited,” explained chief financial officer Judd Tirnauer. “We wanted to capitalize on that demand.”
The productivity of those temporary shops will serve as litmus tests for the viability of potentially re-entering those markets on a permanent basis, Tirnauer said.
The stores will open Nov. 3 and are expected to close at the end of January.
The pop-ups, all of which will carry the same assortment as existing Wet Seal stores, are slated for Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, two in Oklahoma and four in Georgia. All doors are in General Growth Properties Inc. malls.
The doors range in size from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, compared with the average Wet Seal store that’s around 3,000 to 3,500 square feet.
Wet Seal, which totals more than 160 stores, emerged from bankruptcy about a year ago after winning court approval for a sale to an affiliate of Versa Capital Management LLC. It named Melanie Cox ceo in August of last year. Cox has so far looked to position the brand as a place for casual, Southern California styles, thereby tapping on the chain’s roots dating back to 1962 in Newport Beach, Calif.
“It used to be that Wet Seal was all things to all customers,” Tirnauer said.
The company’s seen successes in denim with its Blue Asphalt label, along with fashion basics and dresses, the latter of which Tirnauer said has seen “growth exponentially over the past year to record highs.”
“For us, it’s about the core fashion departments and then the rest is the gravy on the top,” he said.
The performance has the company investing in giftable and cold-weather items, such as sweaters, along with accessories for holiday, said vice president of brand marketing Angelo D’Agostino.
“The merchant team has really worked on a reboot of what the customer wants for gift-giving,” D’Agostino said.
“We had a very nice back-to-school season. We’re seeing very good reception of our cold-weather merchandise as the weather starts to turn, especially in the East and across the West, and we’re cautiously optimistic. I think it’s only getting better with the holiday,” Tirnauer said
The company’s also being diligent about inventory and pricing to avoid heavy promotions.
“I think traffic is a challenge to everyone,” Tirnauer said of the broader retail landscape. “I don’t think that’s a secret mall traffic is down, but as retailers adjust their inventory levels, they can refine their promotional strategies.”
Wet Seal’s management team thinks it can get its base of 18- to 24-year-olds in stores for the holidays with the right mix of offerings and assortment paired with the right marketing.
“We do have a philosophy of first price right price,” D’Agostino said. “We have really quality goods that are going to be coming in at a great value, so we’re going to promote that.”