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Aeropostale’s Puerto Rico Push

Aeropostale Inc. is arriving in Puerto Rico with a three-store rollout and plans for more.

Aéropostale Inc. is arriving in Puerto Rico with a three-store rollout and plans for more.

The retailer next month will open its first store on the island at Plaza Carolina in Carolina. A second unit is to follow several weeks later at Plaza Las Américas in San Juan, and toward the end of the year the third store will launch at The Prime Outlets Puerto Rico in Barceloneta. The company plans to open 10 to 12 additional stores in Puerto Rico by 2010.

Puerto Rico is Aéropostale’s second expansion outside the U.S. The company last year launched 15 stores in Canada.

“We opened in Canada last year and felt this was a natural progression for us,” said Tom Johnson, chief operating officer. “There’s quite a few teens in the Puerto Rico market. It’s a somewhat underserved market.”

Johnson declined to give projections for the Puerto Rico units. “We’re not sure what the sales productivity is,” he said. “In the U.S., we’re doing over $560 a square foot.”

Assortments will be similar to those in southern locations such as Florida and south Texas, Johnson said.

The next stops for Aéropostale will be Alaska and Hawaii in 2009. Once stores open in those states, the company will have units in all 50.

“Beyond that, there’s certainly an opportunity to do licensing in other parts of the world,” Johnson said, noting that brand awareness and acceptance outside the U.S. has been encouraging. “When we opened in Canada, we had terrific brand acceptance,” he said.

For the opening at Plaza Carolina, Aéropostale is doing radio advertising, e-mail blasts and in-mall marketing, contests with giveaways in the store and, on May 31, an aerial sky banner along the beaches.

Johnson said there’s still plenty of room for growth in North America.

“We [ultimately] see 1,000 stores in the domestic U.S. and up to 100 stores in Canada,” he said, noting that the company operates 825 units in the U.S. and Canada. Jimmy’Z, Aéropostale’s second retail concept has 14 stores. “We’re not looking at expanding it just yet,” he said. “It takes time to incubate a business.”

A third brand for kids younger than Aéropostale’s target 14- to 17-year-old customer is in the works.