On the eve of the opening of the first freestanding aerie by American Eagle store at the Haywood Mall in Greenville, S.C., company executives said the intimate apparel subbrand could reach $500 million in sales by 2010.
In addition to the opening of the 2,400-square-foot Greenville unit today, intimate apparel areas in American Eagle stores will be converted to aerie shops-in-shops on Sept. 6. Two more freestanding aerie units are scheduled to open next month, at Riverchase Galleria in Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 14, and at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., on Sept. 16.
"We really believe aerie could be a $1 billion opportunity," said Betsy Schumacher, vice president and general merchandise manager of aerie. "We would have to expand on our stand-alone store base. We're very optimistic. This category is so ripe for our girl."
Aerie consists of what the company calls dorm wear, which encompasses sleepwear, loungewear, bras and undies, in aerie parlance. There are also fitness wear, slipper socks, leggings and robes. "Anything for hanging out," Schumacher said. Personal care products will arrive next year.
Stores were designed to be comfortable and uplifting with features that resonate with the 15- to- 25-year-old core customer base. "Our approach came from focus groups," Schumacher said. "The girls in the groups loved an image of a girl sitting on a daybed. The store feels like a sunroom. It has a warm, residential appeal."
The store design incorporates a variety of light treatments, from backlit shelf displays to hanging lights and track lighting. A park bench at the front of the store invites customers to sit down, as do seating areas in the center of the store and near dressing rooms. White fixtures contrast with dark wood tables and a wood floor in a herringbone pattern.
American Eagle knows something about intimates. Schumacher pointed out the company has been in the innerwear business for seven years. It tested bras extensively prior to the launch. There are also cheekies, which sit lower on the hips, thongs and bikinis. All are available in packs of four for $20 or three for $24, depending on fabric and embellishment.Aerie's productivity is in line with American Eagle's, Schumacher said, noting the chain did sales of $471 per square foot last year.
A Web site, aerie.com, is now live and features the full product range, including dorm pj pants, robes, dorm Ts and hoodies. The site can also be entered through ae.com.
Aerie's launch is being supported by advertising, which captures the subbrand's easygoing sensibility. Service will be a key aspect, and Schumacher said sales assistants had extensive training. "There are technical aspects to being able to help people with a bra purchase," she said. "We took a lot of time thinking about fitting rooms. They are large and have seating inside. The floors are carpeted and there are three-way mirrors."
Schumacher stressed aerie is about a lifestyle. "This subbrand is really about our girl," she said. "This is something she asked for." Asked whether there are any more subbrands in American Eagle's future, she said, "We're always looking for opportunities for subbrands."
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