Charming Charlie offers high-quality and affordable women's apparel and accessories. This guide will teach you everything you want to know about the company, including its bankruptcies and relaunch as an online-focused retailer.
Charming Charlie is a Houston-based women’s contemporary fashion and accessories retailer. After launching its first store in Houston in 2004, the company grew to become a hit fashion chain with 284 stores in 40 states worth $400 million by 2013.
The store featured everything a fashion-lover could want–trendy apparel, watches, scarves, handbags, and necklaces. Mimicking the business model of fast-fashion giants H&M and Zara, the store sold stylish yet affordable versions of high-end, on-trend items, sourcing their products from Asia.
Unfortunately, as more consumers turned to online shopping, Charming Charlie struggled like many brick-and-mortar businesses. In 2017, the chain filed for bankruptcy but attempted to continue operations. It filed for a second bankruptcy in 2019 with plans to close all remaining stores. However, the business bounced back later that year, announcing it would relaunch with a focus on online sales, pop-up stores, and some smaller retail stores.
In this guide, we’ll cover the highly successful launch and the financial rollercoaster ride of the Charming Charlie business. Learn how the company grew rapidly, faced major obstacles, and then navigated the challenges to stay in the retail game by reinventing itself.
Plus, find out how to get the playbook for making your first million for FREE!
|Company Name:||Charming Charlie|
|Valuation:||Sold for $1.1 M in 2019 Bankruptcy|
|Industry:||Women’s Fashion and Accessories|
What is Charming Charlie?
Based in Houston, Texas, Charming Charlie is a women’s contemporary apparel and accessories retailer. While it began in 2004 as a brick-and-mortar business with locations in Houston, the company now focuses primarily on online sales. In its prime, the business had more than 390 stores in North America, the Philippines, and the Middle East. The chain became a shopping fan-favorite for its trendy yet affordable handbags, jewelry, scarves, and apparel–all featuring color-grouped visual merchandising in the store.
Following bankruptcies in 2017 and 2019, which led to the closing of all retail locations, Charming Charlie announced it would transition to online sales, pop-up shops, and select mall-based stores. However, it pivoted again to open 14 new locations nationwide in 2021.
Who founded Charming Charlie?
Thai-American businessman Charlie Chanaratsopon founded Charming Charlie in 2004. Charlie started the company with a single store in Houston, Texas, and grew it into a thriving retail chain with hundreds of locations across the United States.
What is Charming Charlie's origin story?
After working in Houston as a real estate analyst and construction supervisor for an office building and strip mall, Charlie Chanaratsopon began financing construction for Houston suburb shopping centers. The experience led him to dream of building his own mall, but he ended up settling for one store: Charming Charlie. He stocked his first Houston retail location with leftover consignment returns from his family’s jewelry import business and opened the doors in October 2004.
Much to Chanaratsopon’s surprise, women began lining up outside the doors before he opened the store each morning. Whether it was word of mouth, luck, or a direct mail drop, the store became the go-to spot for suburban moms’ day out.
Over the next two years, Charlie split his time between business school at Columbia University in New York City and Charming Charlie in Houston. From meeting with professors to sweeping floors in his stores, he was 100% committed to success personally and for his business.
In 2007, Charlie raised an undisclosed amount from Hancock Park Associates, a private equity firm, to double his store count from seven to 14. As the economy struggled, customers flocked to the stores to enjoy an affordable shopping experience.
The company continued to experience exceptional growth for the next ten years. By 2017, Charming Charlie had opened more than 390 stores throughout North America, The Philippines, and the Middle East.
How did Charming Charlie grow?
In 2013, Charming Charlie made the list for Inc Magazine’s “Top 5,000 Fastest-Growing Businesses.” The company started in 2004 with one store in Houston, then launched additional stores there before expanding throughout the States, Canada, the Philippines, and the Middle East. The chain grew to 390 stores by 2017.
During this time of growth, the retailer received several awards, including the 2010 Hot Retailer of the Year award from the International Council of Shopping Centers and the 2013 Specialty Retailer ACE Award from The Accessories Council. Charlie Chanaratsopon also received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2010) in the retail category.
Charming Charlie’s growth can be chalked up to knowing what the store’s ideal shoppers wanted: stylish, on-trend apparel and accessories at an affordable price. Charlie and his team also created a unique in-store shopping experience by arranging items by color and offering carefully curated collections.
What is Charming Charlie worth?
At its height in 2016, the retailer reported annual revenue of nearly $500 million. However, it's unclear what Charming Charlie's net worth or valuation was at its peak, as the company was privately owned and did not disclose financial information beyond its revenue.
The retail chain filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and again in 2019, closing all its stores. While the company reinvented itself with a focus on online retail and select mall-based stores and pop-ups in late-2019, the current company valuation is unpublished. During its 2019 bankruptcy, Charming Charlie's intellectual property assets sold for $1.1 million.
What lessons can entrepreneurs learn from Charming Charlie?
Although the company experienced financial struggles and filed for bankruptcy, entrepreneurs can still learn lessons from Charming Charlie's rapid growth, early success, and even its failures.
- Focus on customer experience: Charming Charlie offered a unique and fun shopping experience with colorful and organized displays of their products. They also provided excellent customer service. Entrepreneurs should prioritize creating a positive experience for their customers.
- Keep up with changing trends: Charming Charlie's focus on trendy and fashionable accessories helped them stand out in the market. Entrepreneurs should stay up to date on the latest trends in their industry to remain relevant.
- Maintain financial discipline: Despite their initial success, Charming Charlie faced financial troubles due to excessive debt and an inability to adapt to the changing retail landscape. Entrepreneurs should maintain financial discipline and be willing to pivot their business strategies when necessary.
- Embrace technology: In the digital age, entrepreneurs must embrace technology to reach their target market. Charming Charlie failed to establish a significant online presence at a crucial time, which hurt its sales in the long run. Entrepreneurs should leverage social media, e-commerce, and other digital platforms to grow their businesses.
Charming Charlie FAQ
What type of products does Charming Charlie sell?
Charming Charlie sells trendy and affordable jewelry, handbags, shoes, clothing, and accessories, including hats, scarves, and sunglasses. The online store also offers fragrance and beauty items and home decor.
How can I get a discount on Charming Charlie products?
On its website, Charming Charlie offers regular discounts, markdowns, and sales to customers. They also have free shipping for orders over $50.
Why did Charming Charlie go bankrupt?
Charming Charlie filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and then tried to restructure to continue operations. However, the store filed for a second bankruptcy in July 2019 and closed its remaining stores. Several factors contributed to the bankruptcies, including a heavy debt burden, declining sales, rapid over expansion, and inefficient inventory management. Many other once-lucrative retail chains, including Dress Barn and Toys R' Us, closed during this time due to consumers going online rather than shopping at brick-and-mortar locations.
What is the Charming Charlie Plan of Liquidation?
After filing for bankruptcy in 2019, Charming Charlie announced plans for the liquidation of its assets in order to pay off debts. The plan of liquidation involved closing all the company's remaining stores and selling off its remaining inventory, furniture, fixtures, and equipment. The company held going-out-of-business sales in all its stores, offering deep discounts on its merchandise in an effort to generate as much revenue as possible before the stores closed. They used the proceeds from the liquidation sales to pay off the company's outstanding debts, including payments to creditors, landlords, and vendors. Any remaining funds were distributed to the company's shareholders.
Is Charming Charlie still open?
Soon after filing for bankruptcy protection in 2019, Charming Charlie’s founder, Charlie Chanaratsopon, purchased the company’s trademarks out of bankruptcy and stated the brand would relaunch as an online-focused retailer with a few small stores. In 2021, Charming Charlie announced through its blog and social media accounts that it had plans to open 14 new stores in Texas, California, Florida, Iowa, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, and Colorado. Customers can shop on the Charming Charlie website or through the Charming Charlie Amazon store.
Charming Charlie’s brand story includes both successes and failures. However, entrepreneurs can learn some valuable lessons by examining the ups and downs of a business. Charming Charlie’s owner, Charlie Chanaratsopon, had a big retail vision and ran after it full speed ahead. Yet, he didn't give up, even in the face of significant obstacles and financial struggles.
After buying the brand’s trademarks out of bankruptcy, Charlie refocused his efforts, helping the business pivot and reinvent itself to remain relevant and profitable in the rapidly growing ecommerce world. With a successful Amazon store and its ecommerce website, Charming Charlie is still meeting the needs of its loyal shoppers and creating new brand fans.
Do you have a big entrepreneurial dream like Charlie and want to build a 7-figure business? Learning from Charming Charlie’s successes and failures can help, but we have an even better way to help you develop a brand and grow your wealth.
We’re on a mission to make one million millionaires by 2028. We’d love YOU to be one of them!
That’s why we made this FREE course to help you grow your first million brand. Join us now and let’s get started!