(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). Comparable sales for Aerie rose 23% in its fourth quarter, and 29% it its latest full year, leading the lingerie division of American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) to accelerate “our store growth to 60 to 75 openings” in 2019, according to global brand president Jennifer Foyle.
The comp growth in the quarter ended February 2, 2019, was the 17th consecutive quarter of double digit comp growth for Aerie and emboldened the brand to increase the projected maximum number of new openings by five, from the 70 it announced three months ago.
Foyle explained, during the conference call to discuss the financial results, that the new stores “will focus on the markets in Texas and California and add into filling existing markets.” She emphasized, “we continue to see great success in newer markets.” Aerie stores, until recent years, were located in just 13 states, primarily on the East Coast.
As of February 2, 2019, the company was operating 115 stand alone Aerie stores as well as 147 Aerie “Side by Side” stores which are located inside American Eagle apparel shops or factory stores. There are 115 of these Side by Side locations in the U.S., 15 in Canada and 17 in Mexico.
With this combined total of 262 physical locations (up from 227 as of February 3, 2018), along with its direct business, Aerie’s total brand sales are still under $1 billion according to the company.
By comparison, Victoria’s Secret and Pink stores in the U.S. and Canada (which totaled 1143 as of February 2, 2019, down from 1170 on February 3, 2018), along with the direct business of those brands, generated $7.375 billion in sales in the fiscal year ended February 2, 2019.
Of course, however, the momentum is with Aerie. As AEO’s CEO Jay Schottenstein enthused during the conference call, “Aerie is a major growth vehicle for us for the foreseeable future. We have filled a void in the market and emerged as a powerful voice for real women. The team is focused on gaining market share by continuing to offer compelling quality products that make our customers feel good. Aerie’s growth has been terrific and profits have improved. We see tremendous opportunity ahead. Our sites are squarely set on the first $1 billion as we continue to enter new markets and grow our customer base.”
American Eagle as a whole, which sells a range of apparel for men and women, earned $261.9 million on sales of $4.036 billion in fiscal 2018, compared to $204.2 million on sales of $3.796 billion in the fiscal year ended February 3, 2018.
Not only is Aerie expanding, but it’s profitability is increasing, according to Foyle, speaking during the call. "It’s truly gratifying to see consistency in the Aerie’s growth as we continue to gain market share. It’s also important to note that on our fourth quarter annual growth was achieved on less promotional activity resulting in higher margin flow through. We continue to see healthy gains across our sales metrics posting growth in traffic conversion transactions AUR [Average Unit Retail] and the average transaction value. The quality of our sales metrics is a clear indicator that we’re expanding our brand reach and attracting new customers to the Aerie community. New loyalty numbers rose in the mid-teens consistently throughout the year and retention rates are up over 20%. Our fourth quarter category performance was broad-based with particular strength in newness in apparel and accessories. We also maintained a very positive momentum in core intimates, bras in undies. Overall, we are pleased by the positive response to our gift giving collection. We continue to broaden product offering, adding categories styles and expanded sizes that are important to our customers. Doors performance was again impressive as we posted strong results in both our standalone and side-by-side formats.”
An interesting aspect of Aerie’s success is new store formats. “All of the new stores will incorporate unused design highlighting unique features such as a self-evolve fitting rooms like no other. The new design stores are performing extremely well. They’re outpacing our average store comps and we are seeing online penetration in new design markets at 40% to 50%. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to expand the reach of our area brand. Our marketing platform AerieReal continues to gain momentum,” she continued.
“Aerie is a game changer by staying at the forefront of body positivity and women’s empowerment. Our new cast of role models are even more inspirational they embrace the Aerie lifestyle and were chosen for their influential voices, unique stories and commitment to increase the power and empowering our community. And speaking of women’s empowerment, this spring we are excited to add a cool collaboration with the new Captain Marvel movie.”
In addition to opening new stores in 2019, AEO EVP and CFO Robert Madore said Aerie will “reposition and remodel 80 stores and to continue expanding globally through our franchise partnerships.”
Asked during the call about how Aerie has performed in malls, Madore added, “Aerie’s traffic performance has significantly outpaced the mall,” a trend he expects “to continue throughout 2019.” — NM
A transcript of the full conference call can be found here: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4246844-american-eagle-outfitters-inc-aeo-ceo-jay-schottenstein-q4-2018-results-earnings-call
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