28 June 2007

Forth and Towne R.I.P. Redux

Carol Orsborn of FH Boom has a few choice blog posts (actually, fun stories) about her experiences at the now defunct Forth & Towne:
A Tale of Two Townes
Forth and Towne, Gap's high-profile ill-fated effort to start up a retail store dedicated to selling fashion to boomer women, did not pass away because boomer women don't want to be catered to as a special segment of the retail marketplace. There is the persistent rumor afoot that the last thing a women of a certain age wants to be is "ghettoized."
The Rest of the Tale of Two Townes
I was confused. The Forth and Towne concept was that there were different types of women, each with her appropriate area. Each had its own descriptive made-up name, none of with which I identified.
I blogged about Forth & Towne when the stores opened - and again when they closed. The reasons I gave for Forth & Towne's failure were different from Carol's - but I don't think mutually exclusive.

A quote by Bill Bernbach:
"A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it's bad."
So now after reading Carol's posts I've realized that if The Gap's marketing folks had listened to me, the stores would've folded in eighteen days instead of eighteen months.

Update, July 1st - I can't bring myself to write a third post in a row about women's fashions - as if I really know anything about the subject. So here's a link to an excellent piece by Barbara Bradley on Commericalappeal.com: Women of a certain age don't want to look like little girls


  1. So basically it was an expensive but good lesson allthough you need to ask more women to find out the true reasons behind the failure.
    To summarize what I have read:
    - lack of advertising
    - the location in a NY mall
    - the lack of identification with the target market
    - the features of the clothing

    I wouldn't start a babyboom clothing business just on the basis of these lessons learnt. Having owned a clothing import company I can add that it is a difficult market as the brands can suddenly take off for no clear and measurable reason where for other brands it only becomes clear in a later stage.

    18 months is a long time and they could have improved easily. My guess is that they must have forgotten to ask feedback or ignored it when it was there.....or are we still missing out on vital information?

    " Forth and Towne did not pass away because boomer women don’t want to be catered to as a special segment of the retail marketplace." ...or does this only apply to a certain % of the population?

  2. Forth & Towne (apparently) had a myriad of problems – before they opened and while they were opened. Scores of pundits now have their opinions on why it was such a dismal failure. If you feel the urge, do some internet research. Of course, my background is advertising – so I focused on that. I also have doubts about the efficacy of so-called word of mouth marketing - something the Forth & Towne marketing folks were counting on.


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