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Once-trendy retail brands that lost their cool

Once trendy retail brands

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Creating the must-have item of the moment can catapult a brand from the land of the unknown into a household name.

But what happens when that product's cool factor fades?

A slew of retailers over the past decade have seen their success hinge on one marquee product that sent their sales—and, as a result, their shares—skyrocketing. But failure to identify the next new trend, or a fickle consumer base that deemed the brand no longer relevant, sent the companies back down to earth—slashing their stock prices in the process.

Although the following eight retailers are not as mighty as they once were, it's too soon to write them off. Once knocked-down brands including Build-A-Bear Workshop, Pier 1 Imports and Heelys have either experienced or are in the process of experiencing a turnaround, proving it's not too late for these brands.

Click ahead for a list of once-trendy retailers who aren't as hot as they once were.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson.
Posted 01 July 2014


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All-time high: $82.50; June 10, 2013
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $40.38

Lululemon shot to popularity by building a reputation as the premium luxury brand for shoppers who were focused on both fitness and fashion. But the label's appeal has stalled over the past year, in part, analysts say, because it's failed to gain traction with more fashion-forward gear.

Further complicating the brand's struggles are new entrants to the fitness craze, including Gap's Athleta. But Lululemon's troubles also stem from a series of public relations gaffes. In the wake of last year's recall of its luon yoga pants because they could become sheer or pill during wear, founder Chip Wilson found himself in a media firestorm when he said the company's pants weren't meant for all women's bodies.

Last week, Wilson again made headlines on reports that he's considering his options for the retailer, including the possibility of taking the company private. Lululemon in turn said the company's board and management are focused on strengthening its product lines, expanding the company and building "value for Lululemon shareholders."

Juicy Couture

Juicy Couture track suit.
Source: Amazon Inc.

It used to be impossible to walk down the street—or flip open the tabloids, for that matter—without seeing a slew of women sporting Juicy Couture's monochromatic velour tracksuit.

Now-defunct Liz Claiborne, which later became Fifth & Pacific, owned Juicy Couture during the peak of its popularity. The company acquired the casual luxury brand in 2003, but its cachet has since dwindled. As Fifth & Pacific shook up its portfolio last year, it sold Juicy Couture to Authentic Brands Group for $195 million.

Authentic has plans to revitalize the brand. Last week, the company announced it would phase out its existing U.S. stores and open a series of new concept stores under the Juicy Couture brand in "key, high traffic locations" in 2015.

Starting this fall, Juicy Couture also will be carried in low-price department store Kohl's—a dramatic shift from when it was a mainstay at luxury department stores.

"The Juicy Couture brand is strong and thriving globally, and Authentic Brands Group is committed to driving a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy to expand Juicy Couture across our international markets and to re-energize the brand in the U.S. and Canada," Authentic Brands Group Chairman and CEO Jamie Salter said in a statement.


Coach's Bleecker Mini Preston Satchel in printed signature fabric.
Source: Coach

All-time high: $79.70; March 27, 2012
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $34.26

After becoming the must-have brand for so-called aspirational shoppers, who wanted a piece of the luxury lifestyle for less, Coach's cool factor has faded over the past few years. The fizzle is evident in the leather goods maker's once-sizzling North America sales, which have posted four straight quarters of declines.

Analysts have attributed part of the brand's struggles to its reputation for logoed handbags, saying it has failed to gain traction with its more fashion-forward product. To combat falling sales, Coach has hired a new creative director, Stuart Vevers, whose experience designing for luxury brands is expected to give the company a boost. Coach also said it will downplay its "C" prints and try to wean customers off of discounts.

While hopeful that Coach can turn itself around in the long term, analysts question how much time the brand will need to shed its reputation as a "mom" brand and regain its "cool" status.

Teen retailers

Source: Abercrombie and Fitch | American Eagle

Abercrombie & Fitch all-time high: $85.77; October 5, 2007
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $43.27

Aéropostale all-time high: $32.24; April 23, 2010
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $3.49

American Eagle all-time high: $34.80; January 18, 2007
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $11.27

The three major teen retailers have also fallen victim to the cooling of logo fever, as teens are trading in their sweatshirts and polos for fast-fashion companies such as H&M and Zara. Although the three A's, as they're known, are all working to make their apparel trendier, efforts have so far struggled to take hold. In the most recent quarter, the sector's earnings fell about 130 percent compared to the prior year, which was also in the red.

The teen sector is often the focus of speculation, as analysts predict at least one of the brands will be bought out by a private equity firm. Another teen retailer, Hot Topic, was acquired by Sycamore Partners last year.


Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

All-time high: $75.21; October 31, 2007
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $15.08

Although Crocs has since expanded into flip flops and wedges, consumers across America still associate the brand with the porous rubber clogs that made it a household name. After going public in 2006 as the largest IPO for a footwear firm in history, the company's shares are now worth about a fifth of what they were in their heyday. Despite Crocs' brand recognition for amphibious footwear, the company says its iconic clogs now account for less than half of its footwear sales.

Earlier this year, Blackstone invested $200 million in the footwear company, which Crocs said stems from the firm's recognizing "the tremendous opportunity in the Crocs brand and global franchise."

American Apparel

American Apparel nylon tricot figure skating dress.
Source: American Apparel

All-time high: $16.80; December 12, 2007
Opening price, July 1, 2014: 90 cents

American Apparel built its reputation on fashionable basics—with racy advertising, to boot. But the company's sales, and shares, have tumbled since its popularity peaked nearly a decade ago. Part of the decline can be attributed to the rise of fast-fashion retailers, who sell basics at a fraction of the cost. But in addition to stiffer competition, the brand has had its fair share of internal turmoil.

Most recently, the retailer has made headlines for its decision to oust CEO Dov Charney, which it said was the result of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct. In wake of that announcement, Charney said last week that he plans to take legal action against his former employer, and he has since upped his stake in the company. On Friday, American Apparel issued a stockholder rights plan to limit Charney's ability "to seize control of the company without appropriately compensating all American Apparel stockholders."

Krispy Kreme

Glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Getty Images

All-time high: $49.74; August 19, 2003
Opening price, July 1, 2014: $16.01

Known for its addictive, mouth-watering donuts, demand for Krispy Kreme's glazed treats pushed the company's stock to more than double its initial trading price of $21 in 2000. But over-expansion and an internal investigation into the company's accounting practices caused the stock to take a dive shortly after hitting its all-time high. During the recession, its share price dipped near $1.

Krispy Kreme shares have since bounced back into the double digits, but they're still down nearly 70 percent from their peak.


Kevin Winter | Getty Images

Cupcakes were the must-have dessert for much of the previous decade, resulting in shops from Crumbs to Magnolia Bakery popping up around the country. But interest in the sweet treats fell off as American consumers tired of the cupcake, and replaced its spot on the dessert table with trendy pastries such as the cronut.

Last week, Crumbs—which has been shuttering stores across the country—revealed in an SEC filing that it received a letter from the Nasdaq saying it had denied the shop's request for continued listing of its common stock.