Although they are both clothing retailers and happen to share a numeral in their respective names, Forever 21 and rue21 are independent companies with no affiliation to one another. The two companies are, in fact, competitors.
As of 2014, one of the primary differences between the two companies is their size and profitability, according to Forbes. Forever 21 is a much larger corporation, employing over 30,000 individuals, with a revenue of over $3.85 billion. By comparison, rue21 employs only 2,340 people and has a market cap of $741 million.
Considered a specialty retailer that specifically focuses on selling affordable, low-cost merchandise to populations without access to larger or more expensive brands, rue21 does not place its logo on any of its apparel, nor does it engage in conventional advertising; most of its marketing is achieved via word of mouth. As such, its primary competitors are considered to be mass retailers, such as Wal-Mart, who typically target the same lower-income demographic but have far larger advertising budgets and can partner with celebrities such as Miley Cyrus to create lines of clothing and accessories that are popular but still inexpensive.
Forever 21, by contrast, focuses on providing a more upscale line of men's and women's apparel. It is more widespread, with over 480 stores in the U.S., Canada, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and Europe. It operates under different names, including Forever 21, XXI Forever, For Love 21, Heritage 1981 and Reference, each targeted to a different demographic or locale.