Friday, March 24, 2017

Why ModCloth Fans are Angry -- And Why That Matters

Those of  us in the world who embrace all things vintage know the name ModCloth. It is a company that has been the center of my vintage-inspired lifestyle for years now. As you may have heard, ModCloth's owner announced the sale of the company to Walmart last Friday. This move has angered casual shoppers and diehard fans alike.

You can say, "Well that's just business." And there's the problem for fans of the brand. ModCloth wasn't just a store. It had a life and personality of its own--it was the type of dream branding most companies never achieve. It provided a space for all shapes and sizes to not only get awesome clothes and accessories, but for many of us to embrace our love for 20th century style, weird obsessions and general geekiness. It was the modern shopper's ideal of what a great store that cared about its customer base should look like.

I must admit that I didn't make purchases from ModCloth very often, but when I was able to make a purchase I was taking on as much as a 25% markup on the products I bought. I knew there were places I could get it cheaper (often directly from the brand of a particular item). I happily paid up because I knew I was supporting a business I believed in. And when I wasn't able to shop, I stayed engaged with the brand and its message.

What loyal customers can't reconcile with is who they did business with. ModCloth could have sold the business to almost anyone and you wouldn't have gotten this kind of reaction. Target? Sure! Department stores like JCPenney or Macys? Absolutely. A high-end company that would have jacked up the prices to an astronomical level? As a last resort, maybe. But not the scourge-of-the-earth Walmart.

You can't search for news about Walmart without running into the terrible practices it perpetuates. People stuck working for them (particularly women) have to deal with a lot of misery for little benefit. It is in direct opposition to the brand mission of ModCloth. That's why fans are angry, and that's why no one knows what to do with this move aside from saying sayonara.

Before anyone calls me a hypocrite for talking about Walmart, please let me be the first one to call myself out. Yes, I shop at Walmart. I can't help it--it's literally in my backyard. I live in one of those areas of the Midwest almost completely devoid of independent businesses because of Walmart's presence. There are a couple of restaurants in this town that aren't owned by conglomerates--that's it. I have little option but to shop there, as much as I don't like it.

This sale has proven that you can do anything you want because this is America--including doing something that's not in the best interest of the people that made you a success (see also: politicians). I'm sure that ModCloth weighed the pros and cons of the sale and knew that there would be an exodus of customers. But to think that they will get the same level of loyalty and engagement with a new set of customers is ridiculous. The dream is over, ModCloth. It was nice while it lasted.

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