C.Wonder is once again in the news, and not in the best way.
Today's WWD has unidentified Burch Creative Capital (the owner of C.Wonder) staffers refuting an Friday afternoon item in Buzzfeed that claims the three year old chain is planning to close nearly two thirds of its stores and switch to a wholesale brand with a limited number of freestanding stores as opposed to a retail chain.
It's hard to know exactly what the plans are for the chain which has proved popular with customers for its stylish and well-priced offerings, but has weathered unfavorable comparisons to Burch CEO Chris Burch's former wife's label, Tory Burch, culminating in highly public lawsuit between the companies. Though the legal squabble is now in the past, Buzzfeed claims that the acceleration of C.Wonder's expansion was a result of Mr. Burch's desire to prove that his new chain was more than a less expensive version of his ex-wife's thriving brand, calling it a "revenge retail" project. The article suggests that newer locations of the 32-store chain were chosen in haste and not carefully considered for premium placement in malls. The allegedly overexpanded company is said to be planning to close 20 stores after the Holiday Shopping season and convert to a wholesale model, though the article notes that many potential retailers who already have a strong business relationship with Tory Burch might not be eager to risk offending her and her brand by bringing in C.Wonder under the same roof.
While the specific claims of the article have not been addressed by Burch Creative Capital, WWD offers an official response from a company spokesperson over the weekend which suggests that it may not be off the mark:
"As a start-up business, we continue to look at ways to enhance our business model and in that regard we are committed to being an omni channel company pursuing retail, wholesale, e-commerce and international opportunities. At this time. We are rationalizing our store fleet and will be focusing on our most profitable stores."
What does this translate to? It sounds like some stores will definitely be closing, probably early next year. How many remains in question. But it's worth noting that when the Monika Chiang brand was shut down by Burch last year, the company was cagey about confirming its demise even as its stores were shuttered and its remaining stock was cleared out at deeply discounted sample sales, so it's hard to know what to make of official word from the company. It looks like we will have to watch and see exactly what happens with C.Wonder which just opened its third Manhattan store on Lower Fifth Avenue near the Flatiron Building. The next few months will tell us a lot about C.Wonder's future and what will become of the chain. Stay tuned.