Forever 21 was once among America's fastest-growing fast-fashion retailers. It transformed its once penniless founders into billionaires, established itself as a powerhouse in the fast-fashion world and, at its peak, made 4.4 billion dollars in revenue. But the once flush company is now preparing to file for bankruptcy. So, what happened?
Forever 21 曾是美國發展最快速的快時尚零售商。它讓原本身無分文的創辦人一躍成為億萬富翁，成為快時尚產業中的龍頭，並在事業高峰締造了四十四億美元的收入。但曾經如此輝煌的公司現在竟然準備宣告破產。到底發生了什麼事呢？
The Rise and Fall of Forever 21
Forever 21 的興衰
Back in the day, Forever 21 embodied the American dream. In 1981, Jin Sook and Do Won "Don" Chang moved to Los Angeles from South Korea, with no money, no college degrees, and speaking little English. To make ends meet, Jin Sook worked as a hairdresser, while Don worked as a janitor, pumped gas, and served coffee until he noticed that the people who drove the nicest cars were all in the garment business.
在過去，Forever 21 還是美國大夢的實際例子。1981 年時，張金淑和張道元從南韓來到了洛杉磯，身上沒有半毛錢、沒有大學學歷、也不太會說英文。為了勉強維持生計，張金淑曾當過理髮師，張道元則當過警衛、加油站員工和咖啡店服務生，直到他發現那些開名車的人都從事服飾業。
So, three years later, with 11,000 dollars in savings, the Changs opened a 900-square-foot clothing store called Fashion 21. The couple took advantage of wholesale closeout to buy merchandise from manufacturers at a discount. Their system worked. The store made 700,000 dollars in sales its first year.
三年後，憑著一萬一千美元的儲蓄，張道元和張金淑夫婦開了一家 900 平方公尺的服飾店 Fashion 21。這對夫婦趁著清倉大特賣的機會向製造商收購特價商品。他們的作法成功了。這家店在第一年賺進了七十萬美元的營業額。
Fashion 21 was initially only popular with LA's Korean-American community. But the Changs leveraged their success, opening new stores every six months, which broadened the company's customer base at the same time. They also changed the name to Forever 21 to emphasize the idea that it was "for anyone who wants to be trendy, fresh, and young in spirit."
Fashion 21 一開始只流行於洛杉磯的韓裔美國人。但張道元和張金淑夫婦藉著這次的成功順水推舟，每六個月就開設新店，同時擴展公司的客源。他們也改名為 Forever 21，強調他們「為了想追求時髦、新潮、年輕的客人服務」的理念。
The company's key to success was simple: cultivate a huge following by selling trendy clothing for low prices. While this is something that today's consumers pretty much expect, Forever 21 was one of the first to do it. And they were the fastest.
這間公司的成功關鍵非常簡單：以低價販售潮流服飾，建立廣大的追隨者。雖然這對現在的消費者來說早已習以為常了，但 Forever 21 是最早這麼做的公司之一。它們也是速度最快的。
Jin Sook was eventually approving over 400 designs a day, which meant the company could sell trends as they were happening, even if some of those designs landed Forever 21 in trouble. But while other brands and designers might not have been Forever 21's biggest fans, customers couldn't get enough of their affordable styles.
最後張金淑甚至一天就批准了四百件設計，也就是說這間公司可以站在潮流的尖端販售潮流，即使有些設計讓 Forever 21 惹上麻煩。雖然其他品牌的設計師並不喜歡 Forever 21，消費者們還是對這些平價設計欲罷不能。
As a result, Forever 21 became one of the largest tenants of American malls, with 480 locations nationwide. And by 2015, business was booming. Forever 21's sales peaked, with 4.4 billion dollars in global sales that year.
結果，Forever 21 變成了美國購物中心裡最大的承租商家之一，在全國擁有四百八十家店面。到了 2015 年，事業蒸蒸日上。Forever 21 的銷售額達到顛峰，當年在全球賺進了四十四億美元。
As for the Changs? They became one of America's wealthiest couples, with a combined net worth reaching an estimated 5.9 billion dollars in March 2015. Forever 21's goal was to become an 8-billion-dollar company by 2017 and open 600 new stores in three years.
至於張道元和張金淑夫婦呢？他們變成了美國最富有的夫婦之一，兩人在 2015 年三月的資產淨值估計高達 59 億美元。Forever 21 的目標是在 2017 年前成為價值超過 80 億美元的公司，並在三年內開設六百間新分店。
But the company's aggressive expansion would also lead to its downfall. Part of what made Forever 21 popular in the first place was its fast-fashion model. Even though its products were always mass-produced, they still felt unique because its stores only sold select styles for a limited time. However, as the company focused on growing bigger, its styles became more cookie-cutter.
但這間公司的激進擴展也讓它開始走下坡。一開始讓 Forever 21 受歡迎的部分原因即是它的快時尚設計。雖然 Forever 21 的產品總是大量生產，但仍有獨特之處，因為它們會推出快閃精選設計。然而，在公司致力擴張的同時，他們的衣服風格變得越來越了無新意。
As a result, Forever 21 started to lose touch with its core customers, while competitors, like H&M and Zara, rose. No longer the trendsetter, Forever 21 became the butt of the joke. It's also no longer the fastest in the game. Internet brands, like Fashion Nova, churn out celebrity-and-influencer-inspired styles at a rapid-fire pace.
結果，Forever 21 失去了他們的核心消費者，H&M 和 Zara 等其他競爭者逐漸崛起。Forever 21 不再是引領潮流的品牌，變成了大眾的笑柄。它也不再是這場競爭中速度最快的了。像是 Fashion Nova 等網路品牌更快速地大量製造以名人為靈感的設計。
And as e-commerce has continued to boom, traditional retailers, like Forever 21, struggled to adapt to changing consumer behaviors. According to a March 2019 survey, millennials make 60 percent of their purchases online, and overall, prefer online shopping over going to a physical store.
隨著電子商務持續蓬勃發展，像 Forever 21 這種傳統的零售商無法適應不斷變化的消費模式。根據一項 2019 三月的調查，千禧世代有六成的消費行為都是網路消費，而且總體來說，比起到實體店面，他們更喜歡在線上購物。
Yet Forever 21 continued opening new stores as recently as 2016, even expanding existing stores to take over multiple floors with men's, children's, and home-goods' sections, which could help explain why Forever 21's sales are estimated to have dropped by 20 to 25 percent in 2018.
但是到了 2016 年，Forever 21 仍持續開設新店面，甚至不斷擴張現有的店面，在其他樓層架設男裝、童裝和居家用品區，這也解釋了為什麼 Forever 21 在 2018 年的營業額估計下跌了百分之二十到二十五。
On top of that, the Changs, who still own the company, have lost more than four billion dollars from their personal net worth. The company overall is now 500 million dollars in debt and considering filing for bankruptcy. Forever 21 has already started downsizing its stores. And as one of the largest tenants of America's malls, a widespread shutdown of Forever 21 could exacerbate what's already being referred to as the retail apocalypse, which has already closed more than 15,000 retailers across the U.S. and could shut down 75,000 more, according to investment firm, UBS.
更糟的是，公司經營者張氏夫婦的個人資產淨值損失了四十億美元。現在公司總負債五億美元，正考慮宣告破產。Forever 21 已經開始裁減店面了。作為美國購物中心最大的承租商家之一，Forever 21 大規模地關閉店面更加劇了所謂的零售業末日，根據投資公司 UBS，美國目前已經有一萬五千家零售店倒閉，未來更會有超過七萬五千家零售店倒閉。
But bankruptcy doesn't always mean the end for a company. In fact, it could give Forever 21 time to restructure and bounce back. The company could shut down its least profitable stores and try rebranding itself. But in an age of cheap Internet boutiques and fast-fashion empires, this might not be enough. So, it turns out Forever 21 might not be forever after all.
但對一間公司來說，破產並不代表結束。事實上，它能為 Forever 21 爭取到重新組織和振作的時間。這間公司能關閉利潤最低的店面，試著重塑公司形象。但是在這平價網路精品店和快時尚當道的時代，這麼做可能還是不夠。所以說，Forever 21 可能終究無法名副其實地歷久不衰。