Founded by Bob Glick in 1987, Dots began with just one location--a closeout store in Cleveland, Ohio. Over the next 25 years, the single location grew into a massive discount chain with a footprint in more than 28 states (mostly in the East Southeast, and Midwest). Its buyers combed through stores in New York, L.A., and Europe to find great representations of the latest trends that it could sell at low prices that were designed to be affordable for anyone. New shipments came in as often as twice per week so as to keep merchandise constantly fresh and in style. Dots focused primarily on women's apparel in sizes 0-24, but it also offered an array of shoes and accessories.
At its peak, Dots operated more than 400 stores and had headquarters in Glenwillow, Ohio. The chain was acquired by the New York-based investment firm Irving Place Capital in 2011. In early 2014, however, Dots declared bankruptcy and announced that it was going out of business. It quickly closed all of its stores, as well as liquidating its entire inventory. The brand attempted to make a comeback the following year as an online-only business, but that soon folded as well.
When it was still a viable business, Dots' primary demographic was women aged 25-35. It specialized in re-hashing styles popular among top manufacturers and selling them well below regular list prices, and its catalog was constantly changing to reflect the latest trends. Tops included fashion tops, blouses, tunics, tees, tanks, camis, and sweaters. Outerwear options ranged from sweatshirts to light jackets to heavier peacoats and parkas. Dresses were divided into several different categories based on the occasions they suited best. Party dresses included styles like peplum dresses, bodycon dresses, bustiers, shifts, and more, while more casual options included sweater dresses, shirtdresses, and maxi dresses. Wear-to-work fashions were also a major focus, and they included tops, blazers, vests, dresses, skirts, and more.
In pants, you could find plenty of jeans in cuts like skinny, boot, straight, and flare. Other bottoms included leggings, chinos, twill pants, dress slacks, and shorts. Activewear was also a major category, and it included exercise shirts, workout pants, yoga pants, and more. In terms of shoes, sandals, pumps, ballet flats, boots, and booties were all available in different styles. Accessories also included hats, scarves, sunglasses, belts, jewelry, handbags, and more.
While Dots is destined to eventually fade into obscurity, its demise is still a relatively recent development. As a result, many of the brand's clothes that were top sellers a few years ago are still in style today. Dots shied away from completely traditional apparel, and most of its options took some fashion-forward risks that made them appeal to a certain niche of consumers. Low prices were a major selling point (the vast majority of clothes were available for less than $20), and you can often find a great deal on these styles secondhand. We give Dots 3.5 stars out of 5.