Shopping: Are There Too Many Stores?

Shopping: Are There Too Many Stores?

Just a few days after I wrote about visiting Kate Spade Saturday while in New York and my love for the brand, I found out that the PTB at Kate Spade had decided to close all Saturday stores and its website, as well as Jack Spade, the label for men. Of course, I was a bit pissed. Didn’t they see my blog post and pay attention to the fact that I love them?

Probably not, and it wouldn’t matter if they did. Saturday isn’t completely going away, it’s just being absorbed by the larger Kate Spade NY. What that means, I’m not really sure, except that there won’t be a separate website and all the stores will be closing.

kate spade saturday
Kate Spade Saturday, photo by Bex Walton/Flickr

Saturday isn’t the only retailer I like that’s shutting down this year. Gap, Inc. recently announced that it was closing down Piperlime, Jones New York, whose suiting I used to admire from afar as a college student, is completely shutting down, and C. Wonder, the brand created by Tory Burch’s ex recently went bankrupt (I actually didn’t like C. Wonder, I thought its clothing was poorly made).  On top of that, there’s the bankruptcies of many stores from my teen years, from Delia’s to DEB. Gap is not only shutting down Piperlime, it also recently got rid of the role of creative director, sending Rebekka Bay, who joined the company from Cos, out the door.

Is this normal? While it’s easy to understand why a place like DEB might have been overdue for a shutdown (my  mom says she shopped there, back in the day, and it was one of my go-to places for pleather pants as a teen), Saturday only launched in 2013. It was still opening stores near the end of 2014. I can’t remember a time, even during the recession, when so many clothing retailers shut down at once.

Buzzfeed tallies up the total number of clothing/accessories stores that have closed or are about to (more than 1,000) and comes to the conclusion that there are just too many in the US. Apparently, there’s 20 square feet of retail space for every person in the country. Which is a lot.

It might not only be that there are too many stores, but also that there are too many similar stores or too many stores that distract from the established brands. Since you can find mid-price range designers and fast fashion pieces pretty much anywhere, and there are loads of places that offer free shipping and returns, does Piperlime need to exist? Apparently not, as it made up just 1 percent of total business for its parent company. I shopped at Piperlime, but just as often, I would shop around for something I saw there at other stores, to see if I could get a better price for it. And usually, I did. On top of that, Piperlime never really developed a strong identity, the way other brands owned by Gap did. You think of casual wear and jeans when you think of Gap, workwear when you think of Banana Republic, but what does Piperlime bring to mind? Somewhat stylish clothes you can find anywhere? Doesn’t quite have a ring to it. . .

Saturday perhaps committed a worse sin, that of diluting its parent brand. Stuff from Kate Spade, whether it’s shoes, a bag or a dress, is spendy. In exchange for the high prices, people expect higher quality, which they get for the most part. Saturday’s prices were a bit more modest, and the quality was a bit lower, but still higher (both in terms of quality and price) than what you’d find at a Forever 21 or H&M. People expecting the higher quality of Kate Spade NY weren’t getting it from Saturday and people who were used to spending $20 on a dress weren’t about to drop $160 on one.

Still, diffusion lines aren’t uncommon in the fashion and retail industry and I’m not really sure why anyone would look at Saturday and expect it to be the same as Kate Spade NY. It’s obviously cheaper, so you’re clearly not going to get the same thing from it. I liked that it was cheaper and that it offered different styles than KSNY, which is often just a bit too preppy for my tastes. I was also happy with the quality of the clothing and bags I purchased, and I’m pretty picky about that.

There are winners and losers in retail and it seems that it’s getting a lot harder for a company to declare itself a winner, without selling clothing for practically nothing and without offering frequent discounts. Piperlime, Saturday and C. Wonder just couldn’t make it and Delia’s and DEB were just too outdated. It will be interesting to see what’s to become of the retail landscape as time goes on and people’s shopping habits continue to evolve.


Image from Bex Walton/Flickr


Leave a Comment