Aeropostale Reaches Down to Tweens
By Tom Ryan
Aeropostale has launched a new concept, P.S.
from Aeropostale, aimed at the tween market, a demographic that has been
a challenge for many retailers.
The concept targets kids seven to 12 versus
the chain’s 14- to 17-year-old core customer. The store carries graphic T-shirts,
jeans and dresses similar to the 900-store flagship chain with some exceptions,
such as school uniforms for the elementary-school crowd. Ten stores will
open this year with a long-term goal of having more than 500.
“We have watched with amazement for years [the
way] moms would come to Aeropostale with an older and a younger sibling,
with the younger sibling desperately trying to fit into the merchandise that
was obviously too big for them,” said chairman and CEO Julian Geiger, on
the company’s fourth-quarter conference call. “We are expanding and extending
all of the things we’ve done well for the high school student to the elementary
school student. We are enormously focused on this.”
Eighteen months were spent hosting events and
focus groups to explore the concept, including finding out whether it would
turn off existing customers. At the store, a floor-length mirror with a built-in
camera allows shoppers to take their own pictures and see them displayed
instantly on screens. Text messages such as “You look GR8 :)” and “Luv U” adorn
the walls. To make sure the jeans are more acceptable for moms, their rise
was lifted by about one inch compared with the older Aeropostale chain.
The launch comes as Aeropostale has lately been
handily outperforming rivals with 11 straight months of comp gains. Although
some observers believe its budget positioning (i.e., two t-shirts for $20
promotions) has worked well in the recession, Aeropostale believes it’s also
benefitting from a cutback in SKUs to focus on best sellers and on-trend
But many chains have struggled targeting tweens,
a demographic seemingly caught in an awkward age between having their moms
dress them and wanting to dress like their older siblings. Tween Brands is
converting its Limited Too concept to its lower-priced Justice concept, and
just reached an agreement to be bought by Dress Barn. Saks discontinued its
Club Libby Lu chain late last year. Abercrombie & Fitch’s kids concept,
abercrombie, reported a 19 percent comp decline in 2008.
Others competing for the tween dollar include
GapKids and J. Crew’s Crewcuts concept. American Eagle opened 77kids, targeting
two- to 12-year-olds, as an e-commerce site last year and stores are expected
to open in the second half.
Some analysts believe if Aeropostale follows
a similar formula of focusing on value-oriented and trendy-but-not-risqué offerings,
P.S. might just work with the slightly younger crowd.
“From the store environment they’ve hit it,” Customer
Growth Partners’ Craig Johnson, who toured the stores with the company, told Dow
Jones. “It creates something fun for kids to stay
in stores longer. It’s mom-friendly. But I’m not convinced that this can
go to 500 stores.”
What will define the success of the P.S. by Aeropostale concept? Why
has the tween opportunity been such a challenge for retailers?
- Aeropostale Announces the Opening of the
First ‘P.S. From Aeropostale’ Store – Aeropostale, Inc./PRNewswire-FirstCall
- Aeropostale Inc. Q4 2008 Earnings Call
Transcript – Seeking Alpha
- Aeropostale Opens First P.S. Store, Aiming
At ‘Tween’ Market – The Wall