ModCloth, an independent fashion company known for their inclusive sizes, vintage-style clothing and Photoshop-free advertising, has confirmed they have been sold to Jet.com and the Walmart family. Fans of the brand have since expressed some mixed (okay, mostly negative) feelings about the sale.
ModCloth cofounder Susan Gregg Koger tried her best to spin the sale as a positive move for the company, though she admittedly also described the transition as “bittersweet.” On the ModCloth blog, Koger wrote about the company’s humble beginnings. They started in a college dorm room, and over the past 15 years grew to be one of the biggest independent online fashion retailers in the world. She then revealed the company has been in trouble recently, and had to lay off staff over the past few years. She then confirms the Walmart sale, which she describes as the “next stage,” saying:
I am excited to announce that we are joining the Jet.com and Walmart family. 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. Our mission to help our customers feel like the best version of themselves continues. And our commitment to inclusivity continues. Our amazing team continues. And we can open more stores — in your hometown! I hope you will continue to join us as well on this next phase of our journey together.
Some ModCloth patrons were glad to hear that the brand would be expanding its brick-and-mortar presence—currently, the company only has one physical store located in Austin, Texas, though they also have the occasional pop-up. Other people raised concerns over Walmart’s well-documented shady ethics. Here are what some women who weren’t so thrilled by the sale had to say in the ModCloth comments section:
Amplify your message by joining a company that keeps women in poverty while lining [Walmart’s] pockets with more and more money? No thanks. You’re deleted. Know your audience.
Walmart doesn’t respect their workers or respect women. You’ve sold out to one of the worst companies in the world. They don’t pay a living wage, a huge percentage of their workers are on food stamps, and they hold holiday food drives so their employees can feed their families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ve been sued for gender discrimination. They refuse to stop using sweatshops in other countries. This is a major disappointment. I’m done shopping with you.
Walmart hurts local communities, has a terrible track record for human rights violation in its supply chain, actively restricts the right to unionize, stands against the rights of women, and refuses to provide basic healthcare for its employees. As such, I will no longer be a customer of ModCloth.
Yikes. Of course, there were a few commenters who saw the sale in a different light, and seemed especially happy about the supposed increase in accessibility.
Not so-I am thrilled that we will be able to purchase her products locally- BRAVO and thank you!
Walmart gives tuition reimbursement and promotes women regularly. Like any other large company there are pros and cons. I think it is great that more and more women will have access to her products!
Even with a few remaining fans, it’s undeniable that the reaction to the sale is overwhelmingly negative. The general feeling seems to be that ModCloth should have gone under, rather than sell to Walmart. The word “disappointing” appears in the comments section again and again. Though in Koger’s blog post she promises to continue ModCloth’s mission of inclusivity, the brand has yet to address Walmart’s history of discrimination and controversy.
It’s a shitty situation, really. Should ModCloth really have rolled over and left hundreds without jobs, rather than sell to WalMart? The obvious answer is no, but judging from customers’ reaction to the sale, it looks like they might not survive anyway. And from Koger’s blog post, it seems like selling to Walmart and Jet.com might have been ModCloth’s only option—or at least, the option that paid the most money (the amount is currently undisclosed). But if you have to sell, why sell to Walmart, specifically? And how exactly is this going to play out? Will Walmart just start selling a watered-down version of ModCloth? We don’t have a lot of information yet as to how the business model will play out.
Koger tries to end her post on a positive note: “Only recently I’ve realized it’s this: in business as in life, the only constant is change. Change can be scary and bittersweet as it marks the end of one era, but it can also be exhilarating and full of possibility as a new one begins.”
Scary, yes. Bitter, definitely. But there’s nothing particularly sweet about this.