Just a couple of real quick fashion-related tidbits I encountered today. Well, I should clarify this: This won’t be specifically about some hot dress or blouse spotted on some rack somewhere, so please accept my apologies if the title of this post misled you in some way. With that out of the way, let me start by noting that a new clothing store had its grand opening of its newest Madison location today. It’s the first Madison area location for this particular retailer (it’s these folks, for the record), and it’s part of their big expansion into previously untapped states such as Wisconsin, where they went from zero Badger State stores at the beginning of 2015 to 13 stores as of today. (Can you say “rapid growth”?) But the huge promotional push they put on prior to the opening (mailers, signage, etc.) made it feel like the equivalent of The Beatles arriving in America.
I stopped by their store today, and needless to say it was quite busy and very hectic. And it had all the trappings of a grand opening: Live (well, semi-live) radio remote, sale prices, shopping spree giveaways. But I felt a little bit underwhelmed from the experience. Oh, sure, they had some nice items and all that, especially the dresses. And I was this close to buying a new pair of male mode running shoes, only refraining when I realized they weren’t quite my size (9-1/2 wide for me, emphasis on the “wide”). But the atmosphere felt a little… well, a little bit “florescent-lighted, antiseptically familiar, bare-bones discount place.” Which shouldn’t be surprising at the least, since they are a “deep discount” outlet. But “deep discount” stores feel like a dime a dozen, especially considering the fact that one other deep discounter (these folks, for the record) already have a couple of locations in the Madison area (and have a pretty good selection to boot, not to say that the newbies who opened today don’t).
So, will I swear off darkening this newbie discount store’s doors in the future? Of course not. It’s for sure I’ll check them out again in the future. Only I’ll do it when the hype dies down. Maybe then I’ll appreciate them a little bit more, and appreciate the items they have for sale more than I did today.
Let’s change the subject from comings to goings: I also ventured to West Towne Mall today to do some shopping. Well, okay, it was mostly window shopping, although I did snap up a nice dress at Windsor, which fit so well I’m so going to have to get en femme soon and post photos (and the dress is a medium size!). One of the stores I passed by at the mall was Aéropostale, the casual clothing chain with trendy wares that cater mostly to the teen set (though don’t be surprised to see a young adult or two checking out the racks).
Now, it’s no small secret that many brick-and-mortar stores have been struggling the past few years (I mentioned a few of them in this post early last year). So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone when Aéropostale announced in May that it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including shuttering a reported 100 (mostly unprofitable) stores in the United States out of a total of 800 or so nationwide.
I had come across an early list of the stores that Aéropostale had planned to close. Two of the stores were here in Wisconsin, albeit not in the Madison area. (Those two stores were found in malls that have been really struggling the past few years; I should know because I drive by one of them every time I visit my mom, and it’s looks as if it’s a ghost town.) Aéropostale has a couple of locations here in Madison, in the East Towne and West Towne malls, and I figured that since Madison has a college town and students would still be attracted to Aéropostale’s wares, the stores here would be safe.
Well, guess what? I guessed wrong.
This is a picture of the West Towne Mall Aéropostale location I tweeted earlier today. And as you can see from the signage out front, they’re starting to hit the highway. “Store closing!” “Prices slashed!” Entire store 50%-70% off!” Seeing these signs in the storefront was for me the first indication that Aéropostale was not long for West Towne. As I noted in the tweet, they just remodeled this West Towne location earlier this summer. No, really, this particular Aéropostale got a facelift this summer. (Compliments to them on the remodeling job, by the way.) Did it come that bad for Aéropostale that they decided to get out of Madison? Oh, I wonder, too, if this is less of a “store closing” sale as the signs indicate than perhaps a “stores not including this one closing” sale. (**UPDATE** Aéropostale still has a store at East Towne Mall.)
While Aéropostale is (was?) out of my age range, they do (did?) have a pretty nice retail selection, not to mention a nice, comfortable shopping atmosphere (no bare-bones setup for them, that’s for certain). Perhaps that’s why I feel it’s a shame that they’ve fallen victim to what’s been plaguing so many clothing retailers lately: Online shopping, and the get-the-latest-trend-now-before-it’s-gone approach by the likes of H&M and Forever 21 (“fast fashion” is the term). Perhaps when it’s all said and done, their bankruptcy will create a better Aéropostale. Too bad that not everyone will get the chance to appreciate it. So, here’s hoping those teens and young adults will take the time to appreciate them now. Before they’re gone for good.