Colorado Springs clothing manufacturer Janska will close March 31, becoming the latest victim of online competition that has claimed some of the nation’s largest retailers.
Founder and owner Jan Erickson said Monday in an email that she is shutting down the company after 16 years because “the seismic shifts in our industry over the past 3-4 years have made it progressively more difficult for brick and mortar stores and catalogs, which made up 85 percent of our sales.” Janska’s 11 remaining employees will lose their jobs when the company shuts down, she said.
“The mass influx of fast, imported fashion at deep discounts and our societal shift to purchasing everything online (and searching for the lowest price when we make a purchase) are two significant factors affecting us and our retail partners,” Erickson said. “It’s not just happening to Macy’s and Sears, but also to smaller boutiques.”
The closing follows cost-cutting moves Erickson made 1½ years ago when it shifted more of Janska’s sewing to contract manufacturers in Colorado and Boston and refocused on the senior market. Erickson said she marketed her adaptive clothing line as a move-in gift to women settling into retirement communities, but added that “market is still not quite ready for us, and it might never embrace our model at our price point and quality.”
Erickson said she decided in early January to close, and told her staff shortly afterward. She said Janska received a flurry of orders after the closing announcement from retailers stocking up before the line is discontinued. Erickson said “retirement does not seem to be calling me, but I do intend to take some time off and some time away to contemplate what could be next.”
Erickson got the idea for Janska when she was caring for a friend who suffered a stroke in 2001. She found it difficult to dress the friend in any garment that had a traditional sleeve. She later came up with a lightweight red print polar fleece jacket that had deep raglan sleeves, a large zipper pull and an overlapping open-back design. She found a local company to make the jacket, which Erickson gave to the friend.
She spent the next two years researching the industry to see if any manufacturers were making similar products. Unable to find one, she and husband Jon Thomas used their retirement savings to start Janska in 2003 and rented a small office on Platte Avenue. The company would eventually grow to 40 employees and $3 million in sales by 2014.
Many of the jobs that have been eliminated at Janska in the past two years were left vacant when employees left for other jobs, retired or moved out of Colorado Springs, Erickson said. The company also has been squeezed by an increase in the state’s minimum wage, she said.
Erickson and Janska won several awards from the Small Business Administration, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.