American Eagle Outfitters is positioning the Aerie banner for rapid growth, planning 60 to 75 new store openings for this year. The openings will include including 35 to 40 standalone locations, as well as a number of stores that will open side-by-side with American Eagle stores.
This plan marks a major increase in expansion for Aerie, which opened just 12 standalones and five side-by-sides during 2018. The chain currently has 115 standalone shops and 147 locations that are side-by-side with American Eagle stores.
Aerie has greatly outperformed American Eagle, with comparable sales for the intimates retailer rising 23% in Q4 2018, compared to a 3% increase for the flagship chain. The company’s overall Q4 sales growth was 6%.
“Aerie is a major growth vehicle for us for the foreseeable future,” said Jay Schottenstein, Executive Chairman and CEO of American Eagle on a call with investors. “The team is focused on gaining market share by continuing to offer compelling quality products that make our customers feel good. Aerie’s growth has been terrific and profits have improved. We see tremendous opportunity ahead. Our sites are squarely set on the first $1 billion as we continue to enter new markets and grow our customer base.”
The brand’s focus on inclusivity may be part of its success. Shoppers increasingly demand social responsibility on the part of retailers, and major retailers are responding: Walmart acquired plus-size apparel brand and retailer Eloquii, while Kohl’s will launch EVRI, a plus-size private label apparel brand, in the spring.
The rise of retailers like Aerie has come at the expense of Victoria’s Secret, which saw same-stores drop 3% in Q4 2018. The retailer is planning 53 store closures for 2019, and investors have asked parent company L Brands to consider selling the chain, according to CNBC.