r21 Holdings, Inc. (rue21), announced Tuesday that it will open three new brick-and-mortar locations this July, including a location in Hamilton Place Mall.
The retailer, according to officials, has experienced a business uptick since emerging from the Covid-19 shutdown, outperforming every metric including sales, comparative year-over-year sales and EBITDA, plans to open three new stores in South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, bringing its store count to 673 in 45 states.
Officials said, "Like many retailers, rue21 responded to the global pandemic in March by shuttering its stores and furloughing most staff, pausing scheduled incentive bonuses, but continuing to provide employee healthcare benefits. When some states began to reopen in May, the retailer safely opened 180 stores, electively erecting behind-the-counter “sneeze shields”, installing touchless payment technology and training staff on stringent safety protocols."
“During this unprecedented time, belts were tightened -- but the executive team continued to
strategize and collaborate in order to prepare for pent up customer demand,” said interim CEO
John Fleming, whose retail experience includes leadership roles at Walmart, Uniqlo, Bed Bath
and Beyond, StitchFix and Untuckit, among others. “We fully expected all areas of commerce to
take a hit, but to our surprise, our customers were anxious to purchase affordable,
fashion-forward pieces that fit into their new way of life. As a result, we beat out last year’s
comparables with a record June in terms of gross margin,” he said.
Mr. Fleming, who became interim CEO at the beginning of 2020, turned down compensation
throughout the furlough period. Under his leadership, he directed a more streamlined approach
toward promotions, store operations and management structures, focusing on speed to market
and inventory velocity. As the retailer prepares for an uncertain back-to-school season, it will
prioritize the timely supply of trend-setting inventory, such as its fashion-print facemasks and
plus-size rue+ offerings, which continue to be a market differentiator.
“Speed to market continues to be a laser focus. Trends are changing faster than ever before
and we’re determined to consistently meet our loyal customers’ demands,” said Mr. Fleming.
In addition, the retailer doubled down on its customer loyalty strategy, launching rue rewards
online in April and across all stores on July 9. The free reward program -- rue21’s first -- gives
customers 10 points for every $1 dollar spent -- or a $5 dollar reward for every $75 spent -- and
includes exclusive member offers.
“Unlike many retailers, we are in a better position today then we were before the global pandemic. We are energized to build off of this incredible momentum and provide our customers with a seamless, personalized and safe shopping experience,” said Mr. Fleming.
The new store openings include: Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga, Westgate Mall in Spartanburg, SC and Bradley Square Mall in Tyler, Tx.