Michael Mendoza-Blandon no longer fits into his jeans
The Russian network Westland is preparing to close the business. Popular in the late 1990s, Westland, a Russian chain of denim stores with ostensibly American roots, is preparing to wind down business. The company closed the online store and most of the retail outlets, selling off the rest of the collections. The Westland assortment has not changed for many years, because of which the brand could lose some consumers and not withstand competition.
The Russian chain of Westland denim stores is curtailing its activities, two sources told Kommersant in the retail real estate market. On the Westland hotline, “Kommersant” confirmed that the chain’s stores are gradually closing after the sale of product balances. It is not planned to bring new products to stores, the employee specified. The Westland online store stopped accepting orders in the fall of 2022. The Westland representative could not be contacted because the network office email is not accepting new emails.
Westland has been in existence since 1994 and specializes in the sale of men’s and women’s denim. It develops both its own retail network and franchise stores. The owner of trademarks associated with Westland, according to Rospatent, is businessman Mikhail Mendoza-Blandon. He is also listed by the head of the Westland company on the website of the Vityaz Association, an organization promoting military sports and patriotic education. In addition, the businessman is the president of the Encyclopedia of Seraphim of Sarov charitable foundation.
Marina Malakhatko, head of the CORE.XP retail department, notes that Westland positioned itself as an American jeans brand in the mass segment, and for about 20 years it was a popular brand, whose stores were present in many shopping centers throughout the country. But in recent years, the network has shrunk significantly.
According to the Westland website, in 2020, about 55 own stores operated under the brand in major cities of Russia, and today nine outlets remain open in Moscow, the Moscow Region, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Novosibirsk and Omsk. According to one of Kommersant’s interlocutors, today Westland sells its own stores at a significant discount.
The shutdown of Westland could be one of the few examples of the closure of a Russian clothing brand amid the exit of a number of global brands from the country and growing interest in local brands. Among the players who left the Russian market was the American denim chain Levi’s, some of whose local stores changed their manager and resumed work under the banner of JNS. Large Russian chains, such as Gloria Jeans, in such conditions, on the contrary, increase their expansion.
Alexey Vanchugov, managing partner of Vanchugov & Partners, notes that in recent years Westland has not been a leader among players specializing in the sale of jeans. The company practically did not invest in development, and actively used the “American” image to promote the franchise, he points out. As Marina Malakhatko notes, Westland could lose some of its consumers in 30 years. To maintain the competitiveness of the network, it was worth updating the assortment, marketing and positioning, as well as focusing on new sales channels, the expert points out.
According to Alexey Vanchugov, the reduction of retail stores may be due to the accumulated large debts for many facilities. Marina Malakhatko also does not rule out that the decision to curtail Westland retail could be the result of the company’s high debt burden, as well as the possible loss of interest of business beneficiaries in the development of Westland. A Kommersant source among clothing manufacturers and sellers also notes that Westland has not been active in the fashion market for a long time.
According to Focus Technologies, in 2022 the number of customers in clothing stores in Moscow shopping centers decreased by 9% year-on-year, while turnover grew by 5% on the back of a 15% increase in the average check. According to Fashion Consulting Group, the turnover of the fashion market in Russia in 2022 decreased by about 10%, to 2.4 trillion rubles.