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The Gods of Retail: Forever 21

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That miniskirt and bustier scream, "I love Jesus!"

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G In-N-Out Forever 21 Alaska Airlines The Washington Times Chick-fil-A Curves ServiceMaster eHarmony Dominos Pizza McDonald's

Forever 21, a privately held company headquartered in Los Angeles and founded by Don Chang and his wife Jin in 1984, had 2007 revenues of $1.3 billion, $1.8 billion in 2008, and projects revenues of $2.5 billion in 2009.

The chain operates 360 stores in 40 states plus Canada, Dubai, and Singapore. The Changs, who emigrated from Korea to America in 1981, seem to believe that Godliness is next to Fashion-Forwardness.

It seems to be the secret to Forever 21's success. A young designer named Rowena Rodriguez told Radar magazine her theory behind Forever 21's meteoric rise. "If you really want to know, I'll tell you. But you won't believe me…the Changs love Jesus!"


And love Jesus, they do. So much so that, aside from attending daily 5:30 a.m. prayer meetings at LA's Ttokamsa Mission Church -- whose pastor, Ken Choe, describes the Changs as "prayer warriors" -- the bottoms of Forever 21's shopping bags are imprinted with John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Meghan Bryan, a Forever 21 spokeswoman, told the New York Sun that the inscription is a "demonstration of the owners' faith."


This "demonstration of the owners' faith" is being demonstrated further by a new line of plus-size clothing called "Faith 21" and will be rolled out to the masses in May.

"It's a very unusual approach, and most marketers steer clear of religion," said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in an interview. "For many marketers, it's a third rail. The downside is substantial because religion is often very polarizing."

But, alas, religion doesn't always steer clear of marketing. Outreach Media Group is the Christian marketing firm behind a sweepstakes offering $1,000 and a London vacation to pastors who submitted proof of mentioning Disney's Narnia in a sermon.

The Narnia sweepstakes, first exposed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, was the first instance of the "sermo-mercial."

On his website, TheFutureBuzz.com, Adam Singer argues that religion is itself "the most successful, yet most ignored example of the efficacy of marketing."

You want proof? Think about it:

  • Religions have iconic logos (the cross is even more readily reconizable than the Bat Signal).

  • Religion successfully rallies people the world over to... work without any compensation as word-of-mouth marketers to attract new members to their brand of choice.

  • Countless religions the world over have packaged a compelling story that has been improved and edited for generations.

  • Other viewpoints, and even science, are held to be wrong because questioning truth has been blocked by design.

  • Religion fights change to keep itself relevant by updating or changing its messages, its appearance, and the manner in which it spreads.


Bible verses on their bags notwithstanding, Forever 21 seems to be doing something right. Even the Muslim fashion website, Hijabulous, gives them the thumbs-up: "We've all been there. The night before Eid and no outfit. The mad dash around the mall, hopeless desperation as stores close. Don't let this happen to you. [Even] if you procrastinate, all you have to do is pop into one [Forever 21] store and be done!"

Yes, we've all been there, Hijabulous. So, the next time it's the night before Eid and you find yourself without anything to wear, get thee to a Forever 21.


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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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