Aeropostale is just the latest former cool kids brand to give itself a facelift in light of increasing competition from fast fashion brands including Forever 21, H&M and Uniqlo.
The clothing retailer has launched Aero Now with a campaign that shows off the brand’s new visual and verbal identity in stores, with AERO now its name on its stores, on its website (even if the URL aero.com is already claimed) and across mobile and social media (as Mobile Commerce Daily noted) that’s timed to this week’s back-to-school push across North American retail.
Its new positioning is summarized in the tagline, “You’ve changed, so we’ve changed” — which hints at the major restructuring underway at the brand.[more]
The company was forced to secure $150 million in funding from Sycamore Partners in March given its quickly degrading financial situation and need to regain its footing with Gen Z and drive more traffic to its physical and online stores. The brand plans to close underperforming stores and remodel top-tier stores this year, following the 32 it overhauled last year, in the hope that the revitalized AERO branding will take hold with consumers.
“If Aeropostale’s investments in rebranding fail to produce a same-store sales lift following a store’s remodel and associated social media marketing, the company could be back in a very precarious financial position by the back to school season of 2015,” retail analyst Brian Sozzi commented in an article for The Street.
“Mall traffic remains a significant headwind as the Gen Z customer no longer needs the mall to socialize and apparel preferences continue to focus on individuality and uniqueness,” CEO Thomas P. Johnson admitted on an earnings call last week, adding that not only kids but also their moms no longer rate it as a must-buy stop on their back-to-school shopping rounds.
Cue the brand’s refresh, which EVP of marketing Emilia Fabricant described on last week’s earnings call as “blending style with current youth culture. For back-to-school we will debut a new brand platform that celebrates our teen customers’ independence and individuality. It will distinguish Aeropostale as an iconic American brand that caters to Gen Z and evokes the sense of energy and the positive spirit.”
— AERO (@Aeropostale) July 30, 2014
Even while it was quick to assure analysts that the flagship Aeropostale brand wasn’t broken, the company talked up plans to elevate its sub-brands, with private labels Tokyo Darling, Free State and Live Love Dream finding traction with its target audience, as well as create new branded collections with social media stars to try and bring cool back to its brand.
The retailer is expanding on its clothing collection with YouTube star Bethany Mota (who’s on the cover of the new Fast Company) by launching her first fragrance, and is rumored to be talking to Vine star Cameron Dallas (who just taped a #ShareaCoke video for Coca-Cola) for his first branded clothing collection.
Johnson acknowledged that social marketing and buzz is key to the rebrand. “We know that we just have to get the word out in a more aggressive way…we are going to continue to push social media to the limits and we feel great about that,” he said.
— AERO (@Aeropostale) August 3, 2014
One place Aeropostale is growing is south of the border, in Mexico. “We are excited to expand our partnership with Liverpool and bring P.S. from Aeropostale to Mexico,” said Johnson. “The Liverpool team has a proven track record as the operator of Mexico’s largest department stores, as well as our Aeropostale brand locations, and we look forward to leveraging their deep experience once again to open more than 100 P.S. locations over the next several years.”
This comes as its P.S. kids stores are scaling back in the US, where AERO must compete with Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, H&M and Urban Outfitters for teen dollars, and the competition for sustained relevance is fierce. “Kids won’t do without, they will buy new clothes,” said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe. “It’s going to be a challenge who gets that market share.”