Richard had a story recently about the unexpectedly rapid demise of a Jacksonville-based company called Body Central, which sold clothing to teenage girls and 20-somethings in the “fast fashion” industry segment. After years of strong growth and expansion of its outlets into new malls, Body Central suddenly hit the wall and closed its doors. Richard’s story is an interesting treatment of the arc of a company’s existence in modern America.
What happened? Basically, capitalism. Body Central, and other stores catering to the same market segment, kept expanding to new locations and storefronts and expected the demand for clothing from teenage girls and young women prowling the malls to continue to grow indefinitely. But the tastes and buying habits of Body Central’s target audience changed. They decided that going to malls wasn’t necessarily the bees’ knees and started looking for more clothing on-line. In the meantime, Body Central had growth-related problems, like managing distribution centers. Revenues shrank, efforts to redesign stores to reattract customers failed, and ultimately the enterprise crashed.
Capitalism has a long and proven track record for incentivizing production, creating wealth, and enhancing efficiencies — but it’s a messy process. Businesses begin, occasionally thrive, and often fail. Sometimes the failures are of mom-and-pop shops, but sometimes they are of companies that experienced some success but just couldn’t move to the next level, and sometimes the failures are of mega-corporations like Blockbuster that are killed by new technologies, changing consumer tastes and buying habits, and competitors who develop a better product or service. It happens, but it doesn’t make the situation any more enjoyable for employees who are out of a job when the company hits the wall.
Goodbye, Body Central! You’re just the latest in a long line — and you won’t be the last.