NEW YORK — American Eagle Outfitters may be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, but the retailer is doing its best to stay contemporary by launching a new concept, AE Studio, that it will unveil at a special event tonight. The official opening to the public is Nov. 10.
The company has converted its store at 19 Union Square West into AE Studio, a concept that features numerous experiences, the new buzzword of retailers. If successful, the concept — or parts of it — may be rolled out to other stores within the company’s 1,000-plus-unit fleet.
AE Studio, on 15th Street, is centered around jeans and offers an extensive Jeans Gallery on the first floor — men’s on one side, women’s on the other — that includes a Maker’s Shop in the back, a permanent installation for customization.
It also has a complimentary laundry wall where any full-time student can wash and dry their clothes for free, digital concierge iPads in the fitting rooms, and a “collaboration space” that will feature capsule collections co-created with new brands, emerging designers and artists.
The first will be with Atelier & Repairs and offers a capsule collection of pieces for men and women that have been repurposed from prior collections. It’s higher-priced than American Eagle’s core product, selling for $48 to $128, and is also available in 22 stores around the country including units in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Miami.
Chad Kessler, global brand president of American Eagle Outfitters, said, “As we continue to evolve the brand, we’re focused on our leadership position in jeans and our goal to be the number-one jeans brand in America.” The company sits in the number-two position behind Levi’s.
“Our main purpose in AE Studio is to showcase our jeans in an even-more powerful way.”
Since last year, American Eagle has been highlighting jeans in its ad campaigns and in stores and working to “be as close to the customer as possible,” Kessler said.
Kessler said the company is working to find ways to make the Atelier & Repairs collaboration a bigger project, “but it’s hard to do in all locations. It’s at a significantly higher price point and uses deadstock or end-of-life product.” But it indicates that the company is open to “trying new techniques and thinking of product in new ways.”
In addition, the company’s social media team will relocate into the store and work to engage more closely with shoppers. “They’ll be in view of the customers and we hope to eventually use some customer content as well,” he said. “It’s a work in progress. Our team will be interacting with the customers so there will certainly be opportunities for that.”
He said Union Square was chosen as the initial test site since it is close to New York University and attracts more local customers. The retailer’s other stores on 34th Street, in Times Square and in SoHo appeal more to tourists.
Kessler said this is the first store of its type in the American Eagle chain and the company will take the lessons learned here before expanding it to other units. However, at this point there are no plans to open additional AE Studio stores.
“We’re trying to understand what motivates the customer in store,” he said. “We’ve seen such success with the American Eagle brand over the years, but we know we need to do more today. The world is changing and the customer is looking to personalize product and be co-creators.”
He said the retailer hopes to replicate the experiences of AE Studio in stores that have the volume and space to accommodate the extra bells and whistles.
“We’re hoping to learn how to create experiences and motivate customers and use those learning in our 1,000 store locations,” he added. “The mall environment continues to be promotional and that’s what drives a lot of the business there, but we’re challenging ourselves to evolve and be more relevant.”