Saturday, November 22, 2014

C. Wonder Cuts Workforce, Plans to Close Most of its Stores

Typical interior of a C. Wonder store 
Fashion and accessories retailer shifting gears.

New York-based C. Wonder will reportedly close as many as 20 of their 32 locations as of January 1, 2015.  This news was first reported by BuzzFeed (the site originally known for awesome lists and throwback photos  is apparently getting into Mashable territory with breaking news coverage.) 

The report also suggests that C.Wonder's corporate staff has already shrunk from 120 to around 75 people in the past year.

Metro Atlanta is currently C. Wonder's third biggest market after New York (8 stores) and California (4 stores). 

C. Wonder operates full price retail stores in Lenox Square in Buckhead (opened 2012) and at Avalon in Alpharetta (opened a few weeks ago).  An off-price C.Wonder Outlet opened at The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta (in Woodstock) last year.  

Started by serial entrepreneur Christopher Burch in 2011, C. Wonder has often been called a cheaper Tory Burch concept. Chris Burch was once married to Tory Burch, and was heavily involved in the creation of the now billion dollar Tory Burch retail empire.  Some fashion analysts have gone so far as to call C. Wonder "revenge retail," given its similarity to Tory Burch.  

Personally, I see C.Wonder as a mashup of Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Henri Bendel... with quality just above Gap.    

The company's flagship and first retail store is on Spring Street in New York's SoHo neighborhood.

I reached out to C. Wonder stores around the country to try to learn which stores would close.  Though I was unable to get a complete store closure list, I was able to get a good idea of what the C. Wonder store count will look like in early 2015.

In some cases, the managers of the stores seemed completely unaware of yesterday's report, while in others, the employees referred me to the C. Wonder corporate office.  

I got a concrete yes or no at most of the stores, and based on those responses, have compiled the list below:

New York
SoHo New York (Flagship) - Staying Open [1]
The Shops at Columbus Circle (Flagship) - Non committal, but likely closing.  
Flatiron - Just opened in August and "has no plans to close."
Roosevelt Field - Non committal, could go either way. (The mall is currently undergoing an expansion which may affect the likelihood of another retailer being willing to assume their lease.)
The Westchester - Closing
The Gate at Manhasset - Staying Open [2]
Walt Whitman Shops - Closing
Southampton - Staying Open [3]

The Summit - Non committal, but likely closing 

Santana Row - Closing 
The Village at Corte Madera - Staying Open [4]
Fashion Island - Staying open [5]
Fashion Valley - Non committal, could go either way

Mall at Millenia - Staying Open [6]

Avalon - Staying open [7]
Lenox Square - Closing 
The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta - Closing

The Fashion Mall at Keystone - Non committal 

The Shops at Canal Place - Non committal 

Nantucket - Already closed for the season.  Like Southampton, likely will remain open as a "pop-up" 

The Somerset Collection - Staying open [8]

New Jersey 
Garden State Plaza - Non committal, but likely closing 

North Carolina
The Streets at Southpoint (Durham) - Staying open [9] 
*I find this location remaining opening odd.  Perhaps the store is misinformed or in unfavorable lease.

Easton Town Center - Closing 

King of Prussia Mall - Closing 
Philadelphia Premium Outlets - Closing 

South Carolina
King Street - Staying open [10]

Tysons Corner Center - Staying open [11]
The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City - Wild card, could go either way

[  ] - Indicates stores I expect to remain open after 1/1/15. 

I was unable to obtain information on the status of C. Wonder international locations in The United Arab Emirates (2 stores) or Kuwait (1 store).  I would think that since these three stores are licensed, they are likely to be unaffected by the domestic closures.  

Currently all U.S. stores are participating in the company's  "Friends & Family" promotion which offers shoppers 30% everything in the store.  According to a number of associates, this sale is likely to continue into black Friday at which point  deeper discounts may be offered. Unsold merchandise from stores closing will reportedly be transferred to stores remaining open.  

According to the BuzzFeed report,  the closure of up to 20 of its 32 locations by January 1st is "depending on how lease negotiations unfold."  With this in mind, I think it may entirely likely that the stores announced to be closing may not be the only ones, but only represent those where lease obligations were favorable to closures or where other retailers were ready and willing to take their place.  

Avalon for instance, just opened, and is staying open, while Lenox, which has been open for over a year and appeared to be doing well, is closing.  

I think we may see a similar store reduction with C. Wonder as we saw over a decade ago with F.A.O. Schwarz.  In 2001, the giant toy retailer operated over 40 locations across the country but closed about half of them.  Flash forward to today, the chain operates a single flagship in Manhattan in addition to an online and "boutique" presence in Toy "R" Us stores.  (Toys "R" Us purchased F.A.O. in 2009.)  

Going forward, reports suggest C. Wonder hopes to establish itself as an omnichannel business; selling direct to consumers via its own ecommerce and retail storefronts as well as via wholesale accounts.  The wholesale business could prove challenging since Tory Burch is likely already carried by the retailers C. Wonder would hope to court.  


Vett Vandiver said...

sad to hear Lenox's store is closing, I was just there yesterday!

Anonymous said...

They are listed as opening at NorthPark Center in Dallas in 2015. I wonder what's going to happen with that.

Colm Barry said...

Even in UAE and Kuwait … maybe they suffered from "Imperial Overstretch" …

Anonymous said...

Or they realized we consumers are turned off by the cheap, low quality,knock off Shit they have been pedalling! Come on ladies this stuff might be cute on a display but, touch it, look up close or try it on and you will see it's low quality crap!

Anonymous said...

The Pentagon City store in Virginia is closing. The entire store is currently 75% off :)