Recently Lisa and I attended the Media Preview day for the new Forever 21 which opened its doors in Canal Walk, Cape Town. I was incredibly curious to see the store as it is one of my favourite overseas brands because it is more affordable than Zara and even H&M, with really cute, trendy designs.
When I was in London the previous week, I picked up two phenomenal pairs of leather shoes at the Forever 21 in Oxford Street, which made me even more interested to see how ours would compare. I’d also been to Forever 21 in Dubai, New York, Tokyo and Frankfurt, and with my growing impatience and pessimism in our market, it was something I had to experience.
The general verdict? I loved it for three very good reasons:
The store is the size of the Mr Price that previously stood in its place in Canal Walk. A little smaller than the branches overseas, but perfect for testing our market. The interior was on par with international branches, the visual merchandising was well-executed and the space made me feel like I had a free range of movement to shop and stroll leisurely without pressure or a rush. Nothing was on top of each other, and there were about five or six tills, which was great.
2.) I FELT LIKE I WAS OVERSEAS:
Eastern and Middle Eastern hospitality is unrivalled – hands down. They value their customers, invest in them, appreciate feedback and go beyond the extra mile to ensure your return. All media were greeted at the red carpet with dynamite in a small package; a R1000 voucher each. I knew the store was in great hands (and I genuinely felt like I was back in Dubai) when I saw the owner, dressed in traditional Arab “dish-dash”, meandering through his store to experience it for himself and sending some of his employees to hear our feedback as shoppers. Furthermore, much like the Middle East, a few Filipinos, which were undoubtedly especially flown in, were seen training some of the Cape Town branch’s staff to guarantee the brand’s international standards were upheld. For those who don’t know, I lived in the Middle East so this all really impressed me when I saw this in SA! I’m incredibly fussy when it comes to how I get treated as a customer, and I often rant about it on Twitter, because if that’s your job, you have to take it seriously.
Furthermore, I appreciate when I attend events and Lisa gets valued as equally as I do as she is an integral part in creating content for this site, and I appreciate when I’m not hounded by the PR team for a post as if it can be expected. I loved that the store entered our country with a bang, and they didn’t skimp on the hospitality of their guests. Smart brands know you have to spend money to make money . Smart brands also know macaroons are essential at events because bloggers will be there, and everyone knows our diets consist solely of macroons, cupcakes and cold-pressed juices.
3.) THE PRODUCT VARIETY BOASTS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
I really thought the variation in garment pricing, design and themes was smart. I saw jeans for R149 and cami’s for R49, then more pricey items like detailed kimonos made of more weighty fabrics and detailed, which were priced at R600. I bought simple midi rings in New York’s Forever 21 for $2.50, and saw very similar rings in our branch for R25. I’m sorry, but did SA’s usually ridiculous import tax even feature here the way it does at Zara and Topshop?! With the ability to stretch R1000 pretty far, I walked around the store for about an hour because I genuinely couldn’t decide if I should buy a ton of basic essentials, splurge on two pricey items or get lots of great undies (their underwear section is AWESOME. YOU NEED TO GO).
I felt I never shopped enough in London, so I feel like I completed my haul that night. I bought a beautiful white corset/bustier, black lace bra, night gown, grey maxi dress and my dream black leatherette dungarees, which amounted to about R1700. My only critique; I spent about R750 of my own money on those dungarees and I really love them, but the top button on the front panel flap already popped off on the second wear, which left my strap hanging and me feeling awkward. I thought of taking them back, but I wasn’t sure what the policy is and furthermore I didn’t want to part with them. So I’m just going to try and get it re-punched and fixed somehow. It’s the perfect leatherette fabric, and the malfunction is due to the fabric, not as a result of manufacturing, so it’s kind of a catch 22, and I think it may happen to the other button too. But I want to keep these dungarees and get not a credit note!
Have any of you visited the store since it opened? What were your thoughts? What did you buy? Tweet me @SAFashionBreed, I would love to hear about your experience. Let’s talk!
Photographs by Lisa Gabriel