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Forever 21 submits bid to buy retail spaces from Mervyns

October 04, 2008|Andrea Chang | Times Staff Writer

Forever 21 Inc., the Los Angeles retailer known for its trendy yet affordable fashions, said Friday that it had submitted a bid to acquire about 150 Mervyns stores.

The offer, for an undisclosed amount, comes after Mervyns, based in Hayward, Calif., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July. The mid-priced department store chain said soon after that it would shutter 26 of its 175 stores; Forever 21's bid is for the remaining locations.

The move would help Forever 21, one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the area, extend its brand to significantly larger stand-alone retail spaces. Currently, most of its roughly 430 locations are in shopping malls.

"Our vision has always been to get a bigger box," said Christopher Lee, senior vice president of Forever 21. "We've been looking at these assets for many years."

Lee said the company hadn't decided yet what it would do with the stores if its offer is accepted, but it would probably convert many of them to the Forever 21 brand and close the rest.

A deal would also bolster Forever 21's presence in California, where most Mervyns stores are located, and help prevent an influx of large, empty commercial spaces around the state. The average Mervyns store occupies 80,000 square feet, said Mervyns spokesman Roy Berces, who declined to comment on the offer.

Forever 21 had previously tried to buy Mervyns when it was unloaded by Target Corp. in 2004, Lee said, but lost out to a group of investors that acquired Mervyns for $1.2 billion.

Founded in 1984, Forever 21 has expanded from its first store in Highland Park to locations around the world. The clothing chain plans to open its first store in South Korea this month.

Lee said Forever 21 expected to receive an answer on its bid within the next few weeks.

"The key thing is we're not the winner yet," he said. "We would love to be."

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andrea.chang@latimes.com

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