It has been nearly five years since AÃ©ropostale, a staple teen mall, was saved from bankruptcy by a consortium of buyers including Authentic Grands Group, Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties, and executives say the turnaround is on the right track.
âThey are having a great year,â said Marc Miller, CEO of SPARC Group, ABG’s joint venture, and Simon who manages the brand’s operations. “For Aero, it was really about strengthening our bond with this Gen Z customer.”
SPARC President and Chief Merchandising Officer Natalie Levy noted that the retailer embarked on an intensive research mode in 2018 to understand its consumer and reputation and, as a result, reshaped the brand’s position around its Oneness platform, which favors diversity and inclusion. âBefore the whole world even started focusing on this, we were there because we knew it was important to our client,â she said.
AÃ©ropostale has also pivoted strongly to focus more on denim under the leadership of Senior Vice President of Design Amie Goeller, and in March it expanded its sustainability efforts with the launch of Aero Impact, a collection of âresponsible fashion essentialsâ.
Here, Levy shares more details about the client and the brand’s strategy.
What are your prospects for the start of the school year?
âWe feel really good in our position for the start of the school year and even for the holidays. Our campaign for the fall is ‘Back to Free’. The restrictions are lifted. The children can be together again. They are ready to have fun and they are ready to go shopping. We have seen it even since the end of March, with our spring activity: we have largely exceeded expectations during the first half of the year.
What are young consumers looking for right now?
âFor this Gen Z customer, comfort is key – and not just comfort in terms of the workmanship and feel of the garment, but emotional comfort as well. So we looked at that with our Oneness platform and also sports and loungewear, because that’s how they dress all the time. It’s not just something that happened in COVID. We were already developing this business because we knew that was what they wanted. And that was pretty phenomenal. We achieved our long-term three-year plan in the active and lounge sectors in one year, as COVID accelerated casual trends and brand perception improved dramatically. “
Has the rise of TikTok changed the way you market and plan collections?
âTikTok has been an incredible vehicle for Gen Z, obviously, during COVID. So we’re really looking at that and we are marketing to it more broadly. We had a lot of viral moments, which is fun. We had a seamless top to go viral, with over a million views and that was literally driving traffic to our website and stores. The design team embrace it too – they live and breathe this client, so they study hashtags and how they speak for themselves. [on the platform]. They’ve developed products that support the #smartgirl and #cottagecore aesthetics, and we have our #tinytop store – all based on what they see there. We even tailor, organize, and sell merchandise in our stores differently based on what we’re seeing happening right now. Because it changes so quickly.
Have supply chain issues been a factor in your speed to market?
âThey were tough last year. But in fact, there have been some bright spots about it as well: extended seasons, a lot more ‘wear and tear now’, we haven’t had to drop our prices because we’re ready for our next set of flooring. We are about a month late with some shipments, but everything went well. The seasons are getting longer just a little longer. And again, our sales volume is great and our gross margin increases are even better. So it works. “
Why did you decide to launch the Aero Impact collection this year?
âNo. 1, it’s the right thing to do, to be responsible and reduce our carbon footprint. And we know it’s important for our customers – it’s important for everyone. So it’s something for sure. which we have been focusing on in recent years. We have a very big program where we use Repreve in our denim business. We also use less water by using lasers to get the finishes on the jeans and using hemp denim , so less pesticides, less water. And in other categories we use recycled cotton, organic cotton and recycled nylon. Much effort has gone into our Aero Impact initiative.
Environmentally friendly materials often raise the prices. Did your customer hesitate to pay more?
âIn our research, the client says, ‘I’m willing to pay a little more. They won’t pay, like, another $ 10, so we’re sensitive to that. Every dollar counts because we are a brand of value. But we didn’t see any resistance, and they responded positively.