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Hudson’s Bay Hopes Forever 21 Launch Can Attract Gen Z Shoppers

Two brands that have undergone drastic changes in recent years are teaming up in an effort to recruit younger consumers.

Full-line collections from Forever 21 are now available at select Hudson’s Bay locations, with two stores in the Ontario cities of Toronto and Mississauga the first to debut the merchandise. Additional locations are expected to offer Forever 21 wares in Canada in the future. Hudson’s Bay, which counts Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off 5th and the recently spun off as its sister retailers, hasn’t revealed how many stores will sell Forever 21 products after the inaugural wave of merchandise arrived on Monday.

The 351-year-old Hudson’s Bay is selling Forever 21 through a partnership with YM Inc, the Canadian licensee of the fast-fashion brand. YM Inc. also owns fast fashion brands including Urban Planet, Sirens and Stitches.

By midsummer, Forever 21 products also will be available on the department store’s recently launched online marketplace, which already hosts more than 1,400 new or expanded brands.

The partnership is exclusive, making Hudson’s Bay the only Canadian retailer allowed to sell Forever 21 products. The fast-fashion retailer closed all 44 Canadian locations after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019, but the company relaunched a new website for its return to the Canadian market in November last year.

“As a digital-first retailer, we are more nimble, more relevant and are responding to consumer trends faster than ever before,” said Wayne Drummond, chief merchant at Hudson’s Bay. “As we continue to transform our business, Hudson’s Bay is creating exciting depth to its fashion matrix, with coveted brands and curated experiences that provide millennial and Gen Z style-seekers with a destination to find fashion that suits their lifestyle.”

The millennial and Gen Z demographics, particularly the latter, are less inclined to shop at department stores when compared to older generations, incentivizing Hudson’s Bay to try bringing in more brands known to stay ahead of trends. Hudson’s Bay is already prepping for the exit of the Topshop and Topman brands from its stores by October 2021. The move to shutter the shop-in-shop locations follows the bankruptcy filing of the brands’ owner, U.K.-based Arcadia Group, and their subsequent acquisition by Asos.

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Prior to the Forever 21 partnership, Hudson’s Bay introduced Mango Men, Sanctuary, Sweaty Betty, AFRM, Rollas Denim and more into its stores and marketplace. This fall, the retailer will launch Jack & Jones Premium, Compania, Nia The Brand, BDG by Urban Outfitters and Wild Pony, among others. The department store said more exclusive collaborations would be announced later in the season.

Hudson’s Bay also has sought to reinvent itself by bringing more diversity into its operations. In May, the retailer joined the 15 Percent Pledge, in which 15 percent of new brands added to the department store will be owned or designed by those who are Black, indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). The same benchmark applies to the design talent behind Hudson’s Bay’s own private labels. The department store also launched a fashion fund to provide grants and mentorship to support emerging BIPOC designers.

That month, the retailer launched a new social impact platform, Hudson’s Bay Charter for Change, committing $30 million over 10 years to organizations working to advance racial equity and inclusion, through three key areas of focus: education, employment and empowerment. The platform has five charitable partners: Indspire, Black Youth Helpline, CEE Centre For Young Black Professionals, CPAC Foundation and MLSE Foundation.

Authentic Brands Group (ABG), Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Group teamed up to acquire Forever 21 out of bankruptcy for $81 million in 2020 with the goal of positioning the retailer for sustainable growth. As part of this effort, the company is focused on building out the brand’s e-commerce abilities and experience to align with how the world shops today.