Wet Seal

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Wet Seal, Inc.
Lorne's (1962–1990)
HeadquartersFoothill Ranch, California
Number of locations
Wet Seal: 173 (June 2015)[1]
Arden B: 82 (June 2011)[1]
Blink by Wet Seal: 3 (June 2011)
Key people
CEO: Melanie Bordeaux Cox
RevenueDecrease$530.1 million USD (2013)[2]
ParentGordon Brothers
A Wet Seal outlet at Bayside Marketplace, Miami

Wet Seal is an American teen clothing retailer headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California. It carried low, budget or economy priced brand name and company-designed apparel and accessories. The company was founded in Newport Beach, California by Lorne Huycke in 1962 as "Lorne's." The "Wet Seal" name comes from a comment Lorne Huycke made during a fashion show commenting that a model wearing a bathing suit looked like a "wet seal."[3][4] The company was incorporated as Wet Seal in 1990.[5]



In 1995, Wet Seal acquired 237 Contempo Casuals stores from the Neiman Marcus Group. Contempo Casuals would continue to use its own name until 2001, when the remaining stores were converted into Wet Seal stores. The company then launched the Arden B. brand in November 1998 and changed most of the remaining Contempo Casual names to Arden B. In June 2010 the Blink by Wet Seal concept was announced.[6] As of November 22, 2006, Wet Seal had 428 locations in 48 states and Puerto Rico.[7] By 2014, the company had 478 Wet Seal stores and 54 Arden B stores. Also in 2014 Wet Seal announced that it would close all the Arden B stores by 2015.[8]

The Wet Seal, Inc. and its subsidiaries operated as a specialty retailer of apparel and accessory items for women in the United States. It operated three mall-based chains of retail stores under the Wet Seal, Arden B, and Blink by Wet Seal brands. The company's Wet Seal stores offered apparel and accessories for teenage girls. The Arden B. stores provided feminine, contemporary collections of fashion separates and accessories until 2015. Blink stores focused on denim products for the same teenage girl market as Wet Seal, but with store sizes of 1,600 square feet (150 m2) versus the 4,000 square feet (370 m2) of Wet Seal.[6] It also operated Web-based stores, which included www.wetseal.com that offered Wet Seal merchandise; and www.ardenb.com, which offers Arden B apparel and accessories. As of January 30, 2010, the company operated 504 retail stores in 47 states, including 424 Wet Seal stores and 80 Arden B stores. The Wet Seal, Inc. was founded in 1962 and is based in Foothill Ranch, California.

The chain made a failed attempt to purchase County Seat in 1996.[9]

Wet Seal typically served the same audience and competed with Forever 21, and Charlotte Russe.[10]

In 2013, Wet Seal laid off 35 employees, mostly at the headquarters due to competition from Forever 21 in order to save $3.8 million a year.[11]

In 2013, Wet Seal reached a $7.5 million settlement with minority plaintiffs who charged that the company directed managers to fire African American employees who they thought did not fit the company's brand image which is the "Armani look, white, blond hair and blue eyes."[12]

2015–17: Bankruptcy and liquidation[edit]

In January 2015, due to increased competition in the teen clothing sector, Wet Seal shuttered a number of stores despite previously indicating to employees that the outlets would stay open. Employees responded to this termination procedure by posting signs in the front windows outlining the way that Wet Seal management communicated the closures to staff and the relatively paltry compensation received.[13] Share price of the company's stock WTSL dropped to $0.06.[14]

On January 16, 2015, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.[15][16]

On January 27, 2017, Business Insider and other news outlets reported that Wet Seal was closing all of its stores immediately and terminating all staff and employees,[17] part of an American retail phenomenon of store closures known as the retail apocalypse. The brand was acquired by Gordon Brothers.[18] It is now operating as an online-only retailer.


  1. ^ a b "The Wet Seal, Inc. - The Wet Seal, Inc. Announces May Comparable Store Sales Increased 2.9%".
  2. ^ "Company Profile for Wet Seal Inc (WTSLA)". Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  3. ^ Rozhon, Tracie (3 September 2004). "The Teenage Crush on Wet Seal Stores Is So Over". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  4. ^ "The Wet Seal, Inc. Corporate Information". Retrieved 2007-05-21.
  5. ^ Barinka, Alex (August 11, 2012). "Wet Seal has attraction despite woes". The Orange County Register. Bloomberg News. p. Business 4.
  6. ^ a b Nguyen, Hang (June 26, 2010). "Wet Seal debuts teen clothing chain Blink". The Orange County Register. p. Business 3.
  7. ^ "The Wet Seal, Inc". wetsealinc.com. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Wet Seal to shutter Arden B stores". The Orange County Register. April 26, 2014. p. Business 1.
  9. ^ "Wet Seal offers to buy 508 County Seat stores". The New York Times. 13 December 1996. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Young Women's Clothing Brand Information". Retrieved 2011-12-15.
  11. ^ Southern California Public Radio. "Wet Seal posts disappointing same store sales". Southern California Public Radio.
  12. ^ Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY (9 May 2013). "Wet Seal settles bias suit with minority plaintiffs". USA TODAY. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Wet Seal Workers Reveal Ominous Signs The Company Was Imploding". Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  14. ^ "NASDAQ:WTSL". Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  15. ^ "Retailer Wet Seal Files for Chapter 11 to Stay Afloat - Fox Business". Fox Business. January 16, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  16. ^ "Wet Seal Chapter 11 Voluntary Petition" (PDF). PacerMonitor. PacerMonitor. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Teen retailer Wet Seal is suddenly closing all of its stores". January 27, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  18. ^ Branding firm Gordon Brothers snaps up Wet Seal for $3M

External links[edit]