A decade ago, American Apparel stores were near-ubiquitous in cities like New York and Los Angeles, their windows filled with mannequins in skintight Disco pants and zippered hoodies, larger-than-life ads starring barely clothed models beckoning shoppers inside. Now, after shuttering all 200-odd locations amid bankruptcy proceedings that started in 2015, the brand is again dipping its toe in brick-and-mortar retail and reopening its store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, once its biggest in California.
While the products will be familiar to fans of the brand (thigh-high socks and sweatsuits still abound), the leadership behind them has changed. Montreal-based Gildan Activewear Inc. bought American Apparel’s intellectual property — though not its stores or operations — for $88 million in January of last year and has since taken steps to resuscitate it, moving most of the manufacturing from L.A. to its factories in Central America and the Caribbean, relaunching the e-commerce website in the States last summer and recently rolling out international shipping to 200 countries.
While Gildan, which also owns hosiery brands Peds, Gold Toe and Kushyfoot, is unlikely to turn American Apparel back into the retail powerhouse it was at its peak, when it generated more than $600 million in sales annually, the new store, opening in the fourth quarter of 2018, is a hopeful sign. It will be slightly smaller than its previous incarnation and could lead to a franchise model or other locations around the country.
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A spokesperson for the company told the Los Angeles Times that the physical store will give customers the opportunity to “take part in the full American Apparel experience beyond just buying products,” though what that means remains to be seen.
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