Teenage apparel retailer Wet Seal, which is rumoured to be filing for bankruptcy, is allegedly closing stores without warning.
Displaced workers have responded by posting angry signs in vacant store windows. Wet Seal is reportedly only keeping West Coast locations open, while shutting down hundreds of stores across America.
In hindsight, the company’s distressed state was clear, several former Wet Seal employees told Business Insider.
Former associate Kaitie Rosiu said she became suspicious business was tanking shortly after Black Friday.
The North Olmsted, Ohio, store normally received boxes full of new merchandise on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Rosiu said.
But one Tuesday after the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday, she noticed the store had received just two boxes of clothing. The next shipment was even more alarming — there were dozens of empty, unassembled boxes.
Workers were also told to stop selling discount items and gift cards to customers.
In December, she got a tearful call from her boss that the store was shutting down.
Rosiu was transferred to a new location, which shut down days later.
“Zero notice,” Rosiu said. “It’s upsetting, it’s depressing. No one deserves to be jobless like that instantly.”
Wet Seal’s business has been struggling for years.
The company posted sales declines for 11 of the past 12 quarters. Wall Street analysts blame increased competition in the teen sector, declining mall traffic, and fashion misses.
A former Indiana store manager named Misty told Business Insider she spent six years with the company, only to be abruptly fired.
At a holiday meeting in early November, managers were allegedly told by the company that the store had plenty of cash and that their jobs were secure, said Misty, who only wanted to be identified by her first name.
But weeks later, she learned that her store would be closing down the next day, she said.
Misty alleges that her unused vacation and sick days went unpaid, while she received only a small bonus for helping pack up the store.
Roger Empey, a former store manager in Utah, said he wasn’t shocked by his store closing down on short notice.
“It is not fun to have such short notice, but I have known that we were headed down this path for quite some time, and so has my staff,” Empey told Business Insider.
Empey says that he loved working for the company and considered his coworkers to be his family.
In the wake of his store closing down, Empey is choosing to focus on his good memories.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “Life is life, and you can choose to be positive.”
A representative for Wet Seal declined to comment.
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