Remember Delia*s? That clothing catalog that tYpEd liKE tHis and convinced tween girls in the ’90s that they desperately needed more butterfly clips, pedal pushers, and glittery halter tops?
Founded in 1993, the company still exists, but its early adulthood hasn’t been as easy-breezy as its cool teenage years. Delia*s is in dire financial straits, and announced Tuesday it’s looking for a buyer, WWD reports (subscription required).
After slow website orders and dragging mall traffic, the New York-based teen retailer said it had “substantial doubt” that it would be able to continue operating for even another year. It’s considering pursuing debt and equity financing. After announcing its need for a buyer, the company’s shares rose as much as 36%, the biggest rise in more than a year. Before that gain, the stock had lost almost three-quarters of its value this year.
Why is Delia*s struggling so? Once the coolest girl in school, Delia now still hangs out at the mall while her friends have moved on. Many brick-and-mortar mall retailers like Delia*s have struggled as shoppers increasingly migrate to the web. The company’s web presence is limited compared to that of e-commerce giants like Nordstrom, and its online catalog lacks the playful, distinctive voice and style that made its print catalog so appealing to ’90s teens. (It dropped the qUirKy mIx oF loWeRcasE aNd CaPs, now downright retro after the rise of leetspeak, but the handwritten-looking type that replaced it looks generic and unspecific to the brand in comparison.) And their products, too, haven’t evolved significantly: in their heyday, their designs were so quintessentially, ridiculously ’90s (shiny track pants, tattoo chokers, board shorts). It worked then, but the company hasn’t found a way to stay current. Its products are similar to what competitor Forever 21 sells, but at a slightly higher price point. There’s still a glut of cutesy graphic tees–one of the retailer’s specialties back in the day–and their jeans section is dominated by the mostly-dead trend of low-rise jeggings. Apparently, rampant ’90s nostalgia hasn’t helped their case.
It’s not just Delia*s: fellow popular ’90s mall kids Abercrombie and Fitch have also struggled, similarly failing to ramp up their e-commerce strategy to compete with more online-focused retailers and with the rise of fast fashion chains like H&M and Zara.
“We maintain our belief that Delia’s can fulfill its potential as an authentic brand with a unique competitive position in the marketplace,” Chief Executive Officer Tracy Gardner said in a statement.
wE HoPe sO!