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Can Pop-Up Stores Solve Teen Retailers’ Struggles?

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Are temporary locations the key to success in the unpredictable world of teen retail? Wet Seal hopes so.

The retailer announced plans Wednesday to open 13 pop-up stores during the 2016 holiday season in General Growth Properties malls in nine states around the country.

“We see an opportunity for additional brick-and-mortar locations during the peak holiday season,” Wet Seal chief executive officer Melanie Cox said in a press release. “Customers have reached out to request the return of Wet Seal stores to their local areas and we are pleased that we are able to meet that need.”

Slated to open Nov. 3, the temporary locations will range in size from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet and offer a selection of contemporary fashion and gifts items targeting teen shoppers.

“We are focused on curating our shopping centers with the retailers that our customers want,” said Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of GGP. “Brick-and-mortar plays a significant role in the holiday-shopping experience and through its pop-ups, GGP is excited to bring the Wet Seal brand to new communities.”

Nearly two years have passed since Wet Seal closed more than 300 of its stores and filed for bankruptcy, after a slowdown in mall traffic sent sales into a tailspin. Private-equity firm Versa Capital Management acquired the troubled teen retailer in March 2015 and Cox was appointed CEO that August.

Today, Wet Seal operates more than 160 stores—two-thirds less than its pre-bankruptcy base—in addition to e-commerce and Cox has been working to banish the brand’s party-girl image and bring it back to its Southern California roots.

But is that enough to turn business around? Mall-based teen retailers have struggled to connect with their target demographic in recent years, leaving many with no choice but to file Chapter 11.

Pacific Sunwear, another SoCal-based mall staple, sought bankruptcy protection last April and emerged from proceedings in September with a new owner, Golden Gate Capital. Similarly, Aéropostale filed in May and was bought at auction by a consortium comprising Authentic Brands Group, Simon Property Group and GGP. Other Chapter 11 filings in the last two years have included Delia’s, Quiksilver and American Apparel, to name just three.

And there could be more on the way. After years of strong growth, fast-fashion chain Forever 21 has reportedly struggled to stock its giant stores with the right merchandise of late and sales have suffered as a result. The retailer this week revealed it would close a distribution center in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, from which it shipped product to its East Coast stores. Earlier this year, shipping firm EZ Worldwide Express canceled its contract to be Forever 21’s exclusive carrier for nearly 200 stores, while some vendors have reported receiving payments roughly 30 days late.

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