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ModCloth Has Been Sold to Walmart—and Their Customers are Pissed

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On Friday, the indie fashion retailer ModCloth announced that they were purchased by Walmart. A message from ModCloth co-founder Susan Gregg Koger said that this change would allow the company to expand their message and reach more people. She wrote: “This will give us the necessary resources and support that we need as a business to grow. Growth allows us to reach more women, grow our community, and amplify our message.”

To say many of ModCloth’s customers are not happy would be putting it lightly. The e-retailer had long been hailed as a promoter of inclusivity, self care, and indie design. By agreeing to a partnership with Walmart, the company essentially stomped all over the beliefs they had always appeared to prioritize. A quick look at #modcloth on Saturday revealed just how unhappy people are. Former fans have begun sharing lists of retailers that shoppers can frequent instead, including buying direct from the independent designers that the site carries.

For years I have been a ModCloth fanatic. I was dedicated to the brand far more than any other clothing company or site that I had shopped at in my life.

When I graduated college and entered the working world, I struggled to find office clothes that didn’t feel boring or too old for me. It felt like there wasn’t anyone marketing clothes to me—a 20-30 something who needed clothes more professional than stores I shopped at in high school and college, but didn’t want to feel like a stuffy corporate drone either. I had gained weight after college and just didn’t know how to dress myself for my first jobs in the professional world. That’s when I found ModCloth.

It sounds cheesy, but finding a site that offered clothes that felt made for someone like me really increased my confidence in the way I looked. I traded in my plain black dress pants and basic sweaters for colorful dresses and brightly printed tops. With silhouettes that were complementary and office approved, but style that still felt young and trendy, I became a ModCloth super fan. Beyond 9-5 clothes, I bought dresses to wear to weddings, swimsuits that I felt confident in, and everything else from tights and boots to scarves and jewelery. I even considered some of their dresses for my wedding, and did end up wearing a ModCloth dress to our rehearsal dinner. I don’t even want to think about the amount of money I’ve spent at their site over the years.

But ModCloth wasn’t just about the clothes. Their site offered a comments section, where customers would post reviews of the clothing but also had the option to include information about their size, height, and any other specifics as well as photos. I’m 5’2” with short legs, so the ability to scroll through and find other people my height who had commented on the length of things was something completely new that I hadn’t been able to do before.

Building on their reviews and online groups, the company fostered a community that embraced and celebrated women. They were the first retailer to sign an anti-photoshop pledge, they strived to represent women of all sizes in their inventory and in their advertising, and spotlighted a trans customer on their blog who became the namesake of one of their dresses.

As someone who works in the marketing world, I always admired the way ModCloth built a dedicated and engaged customer base. They organically developed a brand with a clear and defined personality. And that, in fact, is a part of what makes this news even worse. The people at ModCloth have a very strong sense of their customer base, which is why their marketing and promotions are so effective. There is no way that ModCloth didn’t realize that a large section of their base would be hurt and upset about this move. Clearly, they did the math, and were willing to alienate and lose a large number of their long term customers. Over 15 years this company wrote a narrative that celebrated and supported women, only to sell out to a company with a long history of devaluing and mistreating women. Not to mention that Walmart damages local communities, employs child labor, and just basically does a bunch of really terrible things.

I’m sad to say that I will no longer be shopping at ModCloth, and judging from the response, it seems like a lot of their long term customers will be doing the same.

(image via Shutterstock/FiledIMAGE)

Daryl Sztuka is a writer living outside Boston with her husband. You can find her reading comics, listening to records way too loud, and having intense staring matches with her cat, Agent Scully. Follow her on Instagram @girlseeksband and Twitter @girlseeksband.

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