Benetton, the major fashion retailer that expanded across the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s, has now dwindled down to one American store following the sudden and quiet closing of its Washington, D.C., store in Georgetown.
Last week, the store, located on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW, was abruptly boarded up with no explanation of its closing. The brand’s name has also been removed from the building’s exterior wall.
Though the Italian-based company still has an international presence—particularly across Europe and South America–the Georgetown closing signals the end of Benetton’s era in the American fashion industry, as its New York City store is now its lone retailer in the country.
The dwindling number of American stores can be attributed to popularity of discount clothiers and the underperforming teen-apparel market. Famous retailers, such as J. Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch, are closing stores. Wet Seal, which used to be across the street from Benetton in Georgetown, has closed most of its stores.
Benetton was a giant of children’s fashion, largely in part to its United Colors of Benetton clothing line. The collection boasts vibrant, colorful pieces and had garnered attention through the use of eye-catching yet somewhat controversial advertising, which aimed to promote social awareness. At its peak, the brand had more than 500 stores in the U.S.
The Georgetown Benetton at 1200 Wisconsin Ave. NW was one of the first to be opened in the U.S. by retail marketing expert Iraklis Karabassis, who brought the popular, hip fashion house to White Flint Mall, its first ever spot in America. Head of IK Retail Group in Georgetown, Karabassis opened more than 100 Benetton stores in the U.S. and Canada. He sold his Benetton operation to the Benetton Group in 2008.
It is rumored that the Japanese retailer Uniqlo, which will open a Tyson’s Corner location next year, could become the next occupant of the three-story space, which once housed the National Bank of Washington.