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Holiday Season: Inside Forever 21 on State Street

Google streetview of Forever 21 on South State Street.

With holiday shopping on the way, Forever 21 manager Jelena Becirevic said sales are picking up and she anticipates a busy season.

Becirevic, who manages the Forever 21 at 34 S. State St. between Madison and Monroe, said the store keeps shoppers guessing with a variety of different selections daily.

“There is shipment five days a week. We are pulling new things out every day,” Becirevic said.

Becirevic, 29, said a lot of other retailers around the area have tried to recruit her Forever 21 employees.

“We are like a hot number,” she said, referring to her hard-working associates.

This branch of Forever 21 provides clothing for men and women as well as accessories.

Forever 21 provides clothes for every occasion. There are outfits from edgy grunge, sports, glam, to comfy sweaters and lingerie. Forever 21 is known for its trendy, affordable fashions that often replicate styles from other expensive brands, said Forbes.

“As a brand we are spreading out worldwide and trying new things,” Becirevic said. She said styles are always evolving within Forever 21. “Following trends is a big part of the success here at Forever 21.”

Forever 21 is one of the fastest-growing retailers worldwide, with more than 480 stores in 13 countries, including one in Korea and China, according to

It all began in a 900-square-foot shop on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles on April 21, 1984. The store was called Fashion 21. By the end of the first year, sales had risen from $35,000 to $700,000, according to Forever 21’s website. The founder, Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook Chang, estimate sales of $1.7 billion and net income of $135 million for fiscal year ending February 2009.

The Changs reinvested their success by opening new stores every six months, eventually changing the name to Forever 21. Few items in the clothing chain cost more than $30.

In July 2006, Forever 21 opened its new leading store in Pasadena. At 40,000 square feet and two levels, it demonstrated that bigger is better, according to the company website. It is upscale and accessible to all ages and demographics and demonstrates the continuation of the strength of boutique and specialty retailing over department stores, the site said.

Becirevic said Forever 21 is no longer known as a junior destination. It has evolved with contemporary, extended size, shoe, men and children clothing lines. There are different sections that separate sets of styles from each other to make it easier for customers to shop.

“We really try to provide customers with fashion forward, latest trend merchandise at a very affordable price,” Becirevic said.

Many teens and college students live in the State Street area, and they have limited budgets, said Becirevic. She said they expect to leave the store with more than one item, and that makes pricing very important.

“Good prices, good fashion, and great customer service is the key that brings success to Forever 21,” Becirevic said.

Apparently the approach is a hit with customers.

“I love shopping at Forever 21,” said Gabriela Murillo, 21, a shopper in the State Street store. “They are constantly changing everything. I can always find something new every time.”

Murillo said sometimes she finds something interesting, and the next day it is gone.

“That’s what I get for not buying it yesterday,” she said.

Natalie Taylor, 18, a sales associate, said that even though store employees might find themselves busy with merchandise, being able to help out a customer during their shopping experience brings a satisfying feeling.

“Many times customers get so caught up with items around the store they do not know what to look at,” Taylor said. “A customer needs to be approached and acknowledged.”

During sales or holiday seasons it can be hectic working at a retail store. It is a very competitive business. “You must think on your feet,” Becirevic said.

Though at times it can get a little chaotic inside the store, employees said they try to stay focused and enjoy their shift, she said.

“I try to blend both work and fun,” Taylor said. She said she finds it easiest when she communicates with shoppers and helps them find items that fit their sense of style.

“I do not see work as just work. Instead I see it as playing dress-up with the customers,” Taylor said. “It is a very unique experience to work here.”

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