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How Data Helped rue21 Avoid Becoming a Retail Cautionary Tale

It’s not very often that you hear about retailers coming back from the brink, but rue21 was able to do just that, thanks to implementing a data-led approach in product testing.

The juniors retail landscape is littered with bankruptcy cautionary tales—see Wet Seal, Aeropostale, Claire’s and Forever 21—and rue21 underwent a turnaround strategy in 2017 to avoid becoming one of them.

After suffering through a series of serious product misfires, the company explored hindsight results on its product testing, CEO and chairman Michael Appel told Sourcing Journal. What it found was disheartening, to say the least: According to Appel, a whopping 93 percent of rue21’s product tests had been failures.

Armed with this information, the company enlisted the services of predictive analytics provider First Insight, which worked with the retailer to develop data-based approaches for testing and picking products.

Fast-forward to the 2019 back-to-school season, and rue21 successfully leveraged these new strategies in order to navigate market uncertainties within the denim market, Appel said.

“The market was saying clean denim was going to be important, but our buyers felt destructed denim was going to be very important,” said Appel. “We did the testing, and the testing showed us quite clearly the consumer was really interested in destructed. So we really put our dollars into that, and it paid off really well.”

Watch the video to learn more about how First Insight works with fashion retailers to develop data-informed strategies, including a breakdown of its five-step approach for product testing.