NEW YORK — American Eagle’s four-floor, 25,000-square-foot flagship opening Nov. 19 in Times Square here is an entirely different animal for the retailer –— double the size of the next largest unit in the chain.
This story first appeared in the November 4, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In addition, the flagship, at 1551 Broadway at 46th Street, will have a 25-story interactive LED sign — that’s 15,000 square feet of outdoor electronic signage. All the wattage will be used to capture consumers’ attention. “They kind of know we’re here,” said Jim O’Donnell, chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. “Now they’ll really know we’re here.”
American Eagle operates three units in Manhattan — on West 34th Street, Union Square and Broadway in SoHo.
O’Donnell recalled seeing the site, a former Howard Johnson’s hotel, for the first time. “I looked at that property and said, ‘This thing has greater value to the company than just a store,’” he said. “With its physical location and with the dynamic of the domestic and international consumer, the national and international exposure could add a whole other dimension to the American Eagle brand.”
As for the signage, the company plans to go big and bold and be “part of the Times Square landscape,” O’Donnell said. “We priced the signage and if we sold every inch of that screen out to third parties, we would offset the entire rent of the building. At some point we might do some cobranding with some companies.”
The flagship will carry anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent exclusive product. “During the summer months and holidays, we’ll have more unique products,” O’Donnell said. The offerings will include aerie boy briefs and thong undies with graphics of such New York neighborhoods as SoHo, Downtown, Uptown, the West Village and Brooklyn, as well as iconic New York imagery such as taxi cabs, apples and subway maps. “We’ll do significant New York products, without being corny,” O’Donnell said. The aerie f.i.t. collection will include exclusive graphic T-shirts that say “Run Central Park” and “Run NYC” and Ts designed by graffiti artists.
Denim and bras are being highlighted in the store. A Denim Library will feature more than 20,000 pairs of jeans at any given time and a Bra Conservatory will boast 7,500 bras in a boutiquelike environment. Sexier, dressier matched sets of camis, bras and undies in sheer fabrics, exotic prints, lace and sequins will be offered. “They are going to be flaunted,” O’Donnell said of the bras. For the flagship, a premium denim line was designed and developed.
Other items available only in the flagship include outerwear in fake fur, leather, sequin-embellished tops and an expanded footwear selection.
“The way the store’s laid out, it won’t be just for teens; it will reach a broader demographic,” O’Donnell said.
The store will experiment with new features and marketing forms in the realm of technology. “We’ll have mobile POS devices where we can check out a customer in a variety of different places in the store,” O’Donnell said. “We’re experimenting with a few other things we call line busting.”
O’Donnell declined to give sales projections for the flagship, but said, “In terms of where it’s located and the size of the store, I pro forma it at a very reasonable expectation. I’m hoping it will exceed it. It’s designed to break even.”
With a purchase, customers will be invited to participate in “15 Seconds of Fame.” They’ll pose in a mini photo studio, and minutes later their photo will be projected onto the outside screen for Times Square to see. In keeping with the neighborhood, store hours will be 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
O’Donnell is anxiously waiting to find out “What is the incremental residue we get as a result of the buzz?”