Forever 21 reopens online in Canada a year after bankruptcy

Forever 21 has announced it is “back forever” in Canada as an online site just in time for Black Friday, so you can finally use that gift card you’ve been holding onto from before the chain closed all stores across the country last year.  

For their grand Canadian reopening, the brand had offered up to 70 per cent off of items and free domestic shipping for qualified orders.

Currently, they are offering up to 75 per cent off on basics. 

If you aren’t satisfied with your purchase for any reason, returns for a refund – excluding original shipping costs – can be made by mail, which means there will be no exchanges. 

The site’s official relaunch followed January announcements that Forever 21 would return to Canada as an e-commerce platform.

“Forever 21 will leverage technology to offer international customers an outstanding online experience,” said president Alex Ok in a statement. “To engage digitally savvy consumers today, retailers need to invest in creating a unique online experience that speaks directly to the shopper.”  

This is a photo of Yonge and Dundas square.
The Forever 21 store on Yonge and Dundas used to be a landmark at the busiest downtown Toronto intersection, before closing down in March 2019. (Historic Toronto)

What happened before?

In November 2019, the Los Angeles-based chain filed for bankruptcy protection in both the U.S. and Canada. According to executive vice president Linda Chang in a press release, it was a necessary step to “secure the future of the company” and “reposition Forever 21.”

At the time, market research firm Mintel reported the company had about $500 million in debt. Bradley Sell, chief financial officer for Forever 21 Canada said that local operations were “simply no longer economically viable” upon closing news.

Back in its golden days, the fast-fashion empire won over customers from all walks of life for being, indeed, fast with the latest trends, but most importantly, affordable. At its peak in 2015, Forever 21 founders Jin Sook and Do Won Chang were billionaires and one of America’s wealthiest couples, with plans to open hundreds of new stores in the following years, according to an article by Business Insider.

Jin Sook and Do Won Chang during Forever 21’s earlier days. (Forever 21)

But much like its clothes, Forever 21’s growth was arguably unsustainable. While the company invested a great deal in expansion, it wasn’t doing as much needed work on product quality and was gradually outperformed by competing outlets like H&M as a result.

Then came the rise of e-commerce, with online fast-fashion brands like Fashion Nova quickly catching onto changing consumer behaviours, leaving the largely brick-and-mortar retailer far behind. According to Forbes, the company is privately held and did not release 2018 financial reports, although analysts estimated a sales drop by 20 to 25 per cent that year.

Forever 21 Canada will be joining Montreal-based David’s Tea – who also closed over 100 stores nationwide and filed for bankruptcy protection in July after failing to pay rent for months – as businesses forced to shift primarily online in the country.

Unfortunately, in today’s economic climate, it’s looking like this list isn’t exhaustive.