COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Wet Seal specialty chain is looking for some summer relief after 22 months of same-store sales declines.
“We are all understandably impatient to identify signs of a significant turnaround in our performance,” said Irv Teitelbaum, chairman of The Wet Seal Inc., at the firm’s annual meeting at The Westin hotel here Thursday. “And we have every reason to believe that our upcoming back-to-school season will herald a resurgence, particularly in our Wet Seal division.”
The company also operates the 99-unit Arden chain, which is performing better than the 474-unit Wet Seal division. Arden B. could ultimately operate 250 stores, Wet Seal chief executive officer Peter Whitford said.
In fiscal 2003, the company’s comparable-store sales dropped 16.4 percent and the firm posted a loss of $47.1 million on sales of $517.6 million.
Wet Seal executives said they look forward to mid-July, when b-t-s designs by designer and creative director Victor Alfaro hit stores. Sample looks were displayed at the meeting, including a deconstructed pinstripe blazer, embroidered camisole tops, crocheted scarves, vintage-style rhinestone brooches and a fuchsia jacket reminiscent of the Members Only bomber jackets of the Eighties.
Whitford said recently recruited talent, including Alfaro at Wet Seal and Jennifer Pritchard, president of Arden B., and fashion improvements will support a turnaround. He also said advertising will begin to incorporate Wet Seal customers for b-t-s, instead of models.
Outside the meeting, five protesters from Sweatshop Watch, a labor advocacy group, demanded that Wet Seal stop doing business with Los Angeles manufacturer Tarrant Apparel Group.
The group alleges that Tarrant closed the Ajalpan factory in Mexico and fired its 600 employees because they began to organize. The same group protested at Tarrant’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Los Angeles Wednesday.