Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Forth & Towne is Shutting its Doors

Fans of Forth & Towne should get down there before June 15, when the chain is closing after less than two years. The sale should be good.

The tag line Forth & Towne splashed all over their advertising was, "Let the Chic Revolution Begin." The clothes looked nice in the ads, a bit Banana Republic, but perfectly acceptable. The models looked chic enough, but it was difficult to miss that they were a little older than the typical Madison Avenue fare.

What happened?

Were shoppers not ready for chic? The question should really be: was Forth & Towne chic, or just another arm of the Gap, targeted at the older shopper? Theoretically this could have been a good concept, except that the original Gap doesn't exactly target the youth market. Why can't this "older shopper" shop at the Gap, or Banana Republic? If the cuts in these stores are a bit slim to accommodate the spreading posteriors of older shopper, then the savvy storekeepers would add another size or two to the line to capture this growing market.

From a marketing perspective, having different brands makes sense. Gap is casual wear, Banana Republic can be worn to work, or the office party. Forth and Towne, however, veered off from Gap's usual lifestyle niches into the dangerous territory of age. Clothing is often sold in different age categories. Abacrombie and Fitch, Forever 21, Hot Topic, Delias and the Gaps own, Old Navy all unabashedly sell to teenagers, so why didn't Gap's attempt to sell to the middle aged, and beyond, work? Can this type of targeted marketing work at the other end of the age spectrum? In the era of Botox, pilates and Fabulous 50 year olds, I think not. Even the tried and true brands sold at places like Lord & Taylor don't try to sell exclusively to an older audience. Ralph Lauren sells to all ages and St. John has tried to make its brand seem more youthful by hiring Angelina Jolie as spokesmodel.

865 Market Street
San Francisco, CA, 94103

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