By  on June 30, 2014

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. will enter the U.K. this fall with three owned-and-operated stores.

The units will be at the Bluewater mall in Kent and Westfield Group’s London and Stratford City shopping centers in London. The Westfield mall units will include aerie shops and have about 9,000 square feet of selling space. Bluewater will measure about 4,500 square feet and won’t include an aerie shop-in-shop.

Pittsburgh-based American Eagle operates more than 1,000 stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China and Hong Kong and ships to 81 countries through its Web sites. At the end of the last fiscal year, there were 96 stores in Canada, six in Mexico, three in Hong Kong and four in China. There are an additional 82 stores in 13 countries operated through franchise arrangements.

In its annual report, the company specified Mexico, Asia and the U.K. as markets in which it might expand through owned-and-operated stores.

“We see tremendous global appetite for both the American Eagle Outfitters and aerie brands, and we believe that our presence in three of the most popular shopping destinations in England will provide great exposure for us in this significant new market,” said Simon Nankervis, executive vice president, Americas and global country licensing for American Eagle. “We are focused on profitably scaling our international growth and believe that American Eagle Outfitters will have great traction in the U.K.”

During a conference call to discuss first-quarter earnings in May, the company disclosed plans to close 150 of its North American stores over a three-year span, including nearly 100 American Eagle stores, and emphasize licensed stores in its pursuit of international expansion.

Without reference to the U.K., Nankervis told analysts on an earnings conference call that the company was exploring ways of achieving the best return on investment for its stores outside the U.S.

“For example,” he noted, “Korea was a market that we have historically identified as a likely target for an owned-and-operated business. And as part of our restructuring of our strategy, we’ve now identified that that’s an appropriate market for us to target a licensed store base, which is what we’re in the process of working through at the moment.”

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