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American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

150 Thorn Hill Drive
Warrendale, Pennsylvania 15086-7528
U.S.A.
Telephone: (724) 776-4857
Fax: (724) 779-5585
Web site: http://www.ae.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1993
Employees: 10,892
Sales: $1.5 billion (2002)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: AEOS
NIAC: 448190 Other Clothing Stores; 448150 Clothing Accessories Stores

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AE) is a chain of mall-based stores that sells casual, outdoor-inspired fashion apparel. With nearly 700 shops in the United States and Canada, AE enjoyed average annual sales increases of 35 percent from 1996 to 2001. This growth rate earned AE a ranking of 63rd among Fortune magazines list of fastest growing companies. American Eagle generated record net income of $105.5 million in fiscal 2001 (ended February 2, 2002). Retail outlets in regional shopping malls account for the vast majority of sales, but the company also sells its gear via a website and its magaloga combination lifestyle magazine and catalog. AEs Canadian operations include the Thriftys/Bluenotes chain, as well as Bramear shops and National Logistics Services, a distribution arm. The company also operates a small distribution center, Eagle Trading, in Mexico.

The vast majority of the chains sales are generated from private label brandsAmerican Eagle Outfitters, AE, and AE Supply; this focus on private-label merchandise was launched through a 1992 repositioning and was intended to differentiate American Eagle from its mall competitors, such as The Limited, The Gap, and Abercrombie & Fitch. To keep up with the latest fashion trends, the company employs an in-house design team, whose merchandise designs are then manufactured to specification by outside vendors or by American Eagles manufacturing subsidiary, Prophecy Ltd. This private-label/in-house design system enables American Eagle to keep tight control of quality and hold prices down. Customer credit is offered through an American Eagle Outfitters credit card.

Approximately 26 percent of the companys stock is owned by the Schottenstein family, whose Schottenstein Stores Corp. is a large privately held company based in Columbus, Ohio, with numerous retail holdings. Jay L. Schottenstein acted as CEO of American Eagle from 1992 to 2002, when he stepped aside to make room for co-CEOs Roger S. Markfield and James V. ODonnell. Schottenstein remained as chairman of the board.

1977 Debut

When American Eagle Outfitters was launched in 1977, it was part of Silvermans Mens wear, Inc., a retailing company whose flagship was the Silvermans chain, which sold young mens apparel and accessories and was founded in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh), in 1904. The Silverman family owned and operated Silvermans Menswear, and by the mid-1970s two brothersin the third generation of Silvermans in the family businesswere running things: Jerry Silverman, president and CEO, and Mark Silverman, executive vice-president and COO. The Silverman brothers believed that they needed more than one concept to continue growing their companythat the addition of other chains would then enable them to operate more than one store in the same mall. They thus opened the first American Eagle Outfitters store in 1977, positioning it as a seller of brand-name leisure apparel, footwear, and accessories for men and women, with an emphasis on merchandise geared toward outdoor sports, such as hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. American Eagle quickly established itself as a mall store able to attract an unusually wide array of shoppers, although its rugged offerings were geared more toward men. And with a nationally distributed mail-order catalog supporting the retail units, the new chain quickly became a key competitor not only to such established retailers as The Gap but also to such venerable catalogers as L.L. Bean and Lands End.

In 1980, Silvermans Menswear changed its name to Retail Ventures, Inc. (RVI). That same year, the Silvermans ran into some financial difficulties and sold a 50 percent stake in RVI to the Schottenstein family. The Schottensteins owned Schottenstein Stores, a retailing giant based in Columbus, Ohio. Schottenstein Stores was founded in the early 20th century by E.L. Schottenstein when he opened the first Value City Department Store, a discount department store chain which by the early 21st century included DSW Shoe Warehouse and Filenes Basement.

In 1985, RVI launched three more new chains: His Place and Go Places, concepts similar to that of Silvermans, and Help-Ur-Self, a bulk food store. The following year the company spent $8 million to expand its headquarters, adding 25,000 square feet to its office space and 146,000 square feet to its 119,000-square-foot distribution center. Also in 1986 RVI added 34 new stores to its existing 200. Many of these were American Eagle units, as the company began that year to concentrate more of its resources on American Eagle, which was achieving rapid sales growth, than on Silvermans, whose sales were being hurt from increasing competition, particularly from discount chains.

This shift in emphasis culminated in early 1989 when RVI announced a major restructuring in which it sold its Silvermans, His Place, and Go Places chainsa total of 125 storesto Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., a Towson, Maryland-based operator of 430 mall-based clothing stores, including Merry-Go-Round, Cignal, and Attivo. RVI also spun off to the Silverman family the 11-store Help-Ur-Self chain, which had performed reasonably well but was not considered synergistic with American Eagle. RVI was thus left with American Eagle Outfittersnow with 137 stores in 36 states and sales of $125 millionas its single focus. The company planned to aggressively expand its sole remaining chain by as many as 120 stores over the following three years. It began to implement this plan but only after The Gap had approached RVI in early 1989 about buying American Eagle and after negotiations to do so had fallen through.

The Early 1990s

Although the chain clearly had potential for growth, in the midst of the recessionary early 1990s American Eagle was saddled with dated inventory that brought low profit margins. With brand-name apparel increasingly being offered by various clothing chains, catalogers, and discounters, American Eagle was facing increasing competition. High management turnover also contributed to the chains difficulties during this period.

By mid-1991 American Eagle had grown to 153 storesnot nearly the expansion rate envisioned two years earlierand sales had stagnated. For the fiscal year ending in July 1991, sales were $144.3 million, a minuscule increase over the $142.4 million of the previous year. Worse yet, the chain posted a net loss of $8.9 million for the year. In a deal designed to position American Eagle for renewed growth, the Schottenstein family bought the 50 percent of RVI owned by the Silverman family, giving the Schottensteins full control of the company and its only chain. Jay L. Schottenstein became the new chairman and CEO of RVI, replacing Mark Silverman, while Sam Forman was brought in as president and COO. Forman had been CEO of Kuppenheimer Clothiers. The Schottensteins also hired Roger Markfield as president and chief merchant. Formerly of Macys and the Gap, Markfield helped AEO find its target customer.

Under its new ownership and leadership, the chain was repositioned in 1992 to focus on private-label casual apparel for men and women, while retaining the outdoor-oriented look for which it was best known. It hired its own cadre of designers and began developing its own sources of merchandise. The private label strategy was intended to position American Eagle merchandise as value priced. The company also began opening American Eagle outlet stores to reduce its inventory of out-of-season and branded clothing items.

Going Public in 1994

American Eagles 1994 fiscal year was its best year to date, evidence that the repositioning was working. Sales for the year were $199.7 million, while net income was a healthy $11.9 million. In the midst of this successful year, RVI announced that it would go public through an initial public offering (IPO). In November 1993 an American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. subsidiary was established and it was under this name that RVI and the American Eagle chain emerged in April 1994, with a listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange and with the Schottenstein family maintaining roughly a 60 percent stake in the new company and Forman about 10 percent. American Eagle went public as a 167-store chain with nine outlet stores and locations in 34 states.

Much of the approximate $37 million raised through the IPO was almost immediately poured back into the company for an aggressive program of expansion and renovation. From July through December of 1994 alone, 55 new stores were opened. At the one-year anniversary of the IPO, nearly 90 new stores had been added. Unfortunately, several of these new locations were unprofitable from the time they opened their doors, and it became apparent that the chain had expanded too rapidly.

Adding to the confusion at this time was a rapid succession of management changes. In early 1995, Forman was named vice-chairman, with Robert G. Lynn, a one-time president and CEO of F.W. Woolworth Co., becoming vice-chairman and COO and Roger S. Markfield being promoted to president and chief merchandising officer. Lynn, however, left the company in December 1995 over reported management differences. Later that same month, George Kolber took over Lynns vice-chairman and COO spots.

Company Perspectives:

American Eagle Outfitters is a leading lifestyle retailer that designs, markets, and sells its own brand of relaxed, versatile clothing for 16- to 34-year-olds, providing high-quality merchandise at affordable prices. AEs lifestyle collection includes casual basics like khakis, cargos, and jeans; fashion tops like rugbys, polos, and graphic Ts; and functional items like swimwear, outerwear, footwear and accessories.

Forman, meanwhile, sold his 10 percent stake in American Eagle in early 1995. Later that year he resigned from his position as vice-chairman following his purchase of 32 American Eagle outlet stores in 18 states for between $14 million and $16 million. The company had decided to divest the outlets in order to concentrate on its mall locations, and it subsequently closed its remaining seven outlet stores. Forman signed a licensing agreement with American Eagle, whereby the outlets he purchased would operate under the American Eagle Outlets name and would sell merchandise made specifically for the outlets. Through all of these changes, Jay Schottenstein continued in his role of chairman and CEO.

Repositioned Again in 1996

The year 1996 was a transitional one for American Eagle as it cut back drastically on its expansion plans in order to reposition the chain once again. In search of higher-margin merchandise to offer, Markfield and Kolber determined that the chain had to sell more womens apparel, which is typically more profitable. The leaders also decided to completely divorce American Eagle of its once-eclectic range of customers and target the lucrative youth marketages 16 to 34through a younger and hipper feel to the clothing and in the chains marketing. The company launched a magalog, a catalog of merchandise that also included editorial content of interest to this key demographic, including music and book reviews, feature stories, horoscopes, and advice columns. Finally, American Eagle would strongly emphasize value pricing through a commitment to private label merchandise. Remaining at the chains core was its venerable rugged, outdoorsy style.

For fiscal 1996 (the first year of the companys new fiscal year, which now ended at the end of January), about 98 percent of the companys sales were generated from its private label brands, American Eagle Outfitters, AE, and AE Supply. Womens clothing, meantimewhich in fiscal 1995 had accounted for only 30 percent of salesaccounted for 47 percent of sales by that time.

If 1996 was a transitional year for American Eagle, then the transition went exceedingly well, as 1997 turned into a breakout year. For the year, sales increased 24.3 percent to a record $405.7 million, while net income more than tripled, going from $5.9 million in 1996 to $19.5 million in 1997. Comparable store sales were very strong, increasing 15.1 percent in 1997 compared to the previous year.

In addition to opening 32 new stores in 1997, American Eagle that year also for the first time began manufacturing its own clothing through the acquisition of Prophecy Ltd., a New York-based contract apparel maker which had been majority owned by the Schottenstein family. This move toward further vertical integration was in keeping with the chains desire to control costs and maintain quality. The terms of the purchase were $900,000 in cash plus a contingency payment of up to $700,000.

Early 1998 was a busy period for American Eagle as it introduced the AE Clear Card, the first clear credit card. By the end of 1999, the card accounted for 14 percent of total sales. The company also began to open new stores outside of enclosed malls, in airports, strip malls, and other locales. AE also undertook a West Coast expansion that year, with openings in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington as well as Portland, Oregon. AE also launched a Web site to appeal to the chains youth-oriented customer base. The company envisioned its Internet outlet not so much as a primary sales vehicle, but more as a way for customers to preshop and for the company to track geographic areas that were ripe for retail expansion.

The companys growth strategies were well-timed, as AE rode a rising tide in the young mens clothing business. During the late 1990s, the U.S. teen populationAEs key demographicexpanded more rapidly than the general populace. Womens Wear Daily, a clothing industry periodical, called AE one of the hottest retailers in the country, citing it as a case study on how to build a brand. The renewed strength of American Eagle was also evident in two separate three-for-two stock splits, which occurred during the first five months of 1998. AE posted record results that fiscal year, as earnings increased more than 175 percent to $54.1 million on a 44.8 percent increase in sales, to $587.6 million.

AEOs success garnered the attention of upscale competitor Abercrombie & Fitch, which brought three lawsuits over the course of four years accusing AEO of intentionally and systematically copying everything from the paper its catalog was printed on to editorial content and product names like vintage sweatshirts and field jerseys. American Eagle won each case, some by outright dismissal.

Having successfully repositioned its brand, AEO moved to fine-tune in-house efficiencies in the latter years of the 1990s. The company instituted a new computer system that would separate inventory and personnel management from sales transactions. Capturing up-to-the-minute information on fast and slow moving merchandise gave the company the ability to refine production schedules in line with demand. More efficient distribution meant that the company could keep up with the fast-changing tastes of U.S. teens. In 2000, AE announced its plans to open a distribution center near Kansas City, Missouri, to support its growth plans for the Western United States.

Key Dates:

1977:
American Eagle Outfitters (AE) is launched as segment of Silvermans Mens wear, Inc.
1991:
AE grows to 153 stores.
1992:
The company focuses on private-label merchandise.
1993:
American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. is incorporated.
1994:
AE goes public with a listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
2000:
AE steps up its promotional campaign, gaining exposure for its clothing on the television series Dawsons Creek and in teen-oriented movies.
2001:
AE generates record net income of $105.5 million.

The company continued to hone its marketing strategy as well, becoming the official costumer for the television series Dawsons Creek and inking a deal with Dimension Films to provide the wardrobe for no fewer than four of its teen-oriented films in the years to come. AE subsequently signed a deal to provide clothing to the 10th anniversary season of MTVs Road Rules reality series as well. The company soon added national television advertising, primarily via cable.

Writing for WWD, Jennifer Weitzman attributed AEs success to its sole focus on the teen market, noting that the appeal to a particular cliquein this case, jock-prepdifferentiated it from stores like the Gap, which had a broader pull. The pitfall of this niche marketing strategy was the fickle nature of teen tastes; if AE were to fall out of favor, it would have a difficult time regaining its following.

The company reached a milestone at the end of the 20th century, crossing the $1 billion sales mark in fiscal 2000 (the year ended February 2, 2000).

New Century, New Country

In 2000, American Eagle made a bold move into the Canadian market with the purchase of the a 172-store chain and its warehouse operations from Dylex Limited for $74 million. Like AE, the 115-store Thriftys chain offered Bluenotes private-label clothing at locations in major shopping malls. The acquisition provided an opportunity for AE to quickly convert the majority of these stores to its own format. By early 2002, it had made 46 such changes. As American Eagle CFO Laura Weil told Mortgage Banking, It would have taken years to build up this kind of store location portfolio any other way.

The company chalked up another year of record earnings in fiscal 2001, with a net income of $105.5 million on sales of $1.37 billion. Despite a recession, sales continued to grow in fiscal 2002, increasing 6.7 percent to $1.5 billion. However, the Bluenotes/Thriftys operations proved a drag on results, with sales for that segment of the company falling 5.7 percent for the period.

After ten years at the helm, Jay L. Schottenstein relinquished the chief executive office to Roger S. Markfield and James V. ODonnell, who served as co-CEOs beginning in December 2002. By early 2003, American Eagle appeared to be weathering the recession quite handsomely, but its new leaders faced the ongoing challenges of converting the remaining Canadian operations to the AE format, as well as continuing to correctly gauge the finicky tastes of North Americas youth.

Principal Subsidiaries

Prophecy Ltd.; Eagle Trading (Mexico).

Principal Competitors

The Gap, Inc.; Eddie Bauer, Inc.; Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

Further Reading

American Eagle Buys Canadian Clothier, Pittsburgh Business Times, September 1, 2000, p. 49.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. Wins Abercrombie & Fitch Lawsuit in U.S. Court of Appeals, Market News Publishing, February 26, 2002.

Benson, Betsy, Retail Ventures Plans Restructuring: New Focus on American Eagle Outfitters Unit, Pittsburgh Business Times, February 27, 1989.

Davis, Jim, American Eagle Lands $40 million Distribution Center in Lawrence, Kan., Pittsburgh Business Times, March 31, 2000, p. 10.

Fitzpatrick, Dan, New Lines Pace American Eagle Comeback Bid, Pittsburgh Business Times, December 30, 1996, pp. 1 +.

Gallagher, Jim, Gap Wont Buy American Eagle, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 18, 1989.

Lewis, David, American Eagle Outfitters Revamps Site, Eyes High Sales Growth, InternetWeek, March 26, 2001, p. 70.

Much, Marilyn, Retailer Moves into New Venues, Cyberspace, Investors Business Daily, January 30, 1998, p. A3.

Palmieri, Jean, American Eagle Makes a Name For Itself, WWD, December 9, 1998, p. 4.

, American Eagle Spreading Wings on West Coast, Daily News Record, June 5, 1998, p. 23.

Phillips, Jeff, Schottensteins Buy 153 Stores, Business First of Columbus, June 3, 1991, pp. 1 +.

Scardio, Emily, Specialty Rules, DSNRetailing Today, February 11, 2002, p. A6.

Walters, Rebecca, American Eagle Going Public, Business First of Columbus, March 21, 1994.

Warson, Albert, U.S. Retailers are SOLD ON Canada, Mortgage Banking, July 2001, p. 73.

Weitzman, Jennifer, Outfitters Net Results Diverge, WWD, August 19, 2002, p. 7.

, Tribal Looks Lead Teen Retailers, WWD, March 16, 2001, p. 21.

Young, Vicki M., A&F Sues American Eagle, WWD, June 3, 1998, p. 2.

, American Eagle Builds New Nests, WWD, August 18, 1999, p. 12.

Zimmermann, Kim Ann, American Eagle Gets Lean at POS, WWD, March 10, 1999, p. 17.

David E. Salamie

update: April D. Gasbarre

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American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

150 Thorn Hill Drive
Warrendale, Pennsylvania 15086-7528
U.S.A.
(412) 776-4857
Fax: (412) 779-5585
Web site: http://www.ae-outfitters.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1993
Employees: 5,441
Sales: $405.7 million (1997)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: AEOS
SICs: 5699 Miscellaneous Apparel & Accessory Stores

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. is a specialty retail chain offering casual, outdoor-inspired fashion apparel, footwear, and accessories for men and women ages 16-34. There are more than 330 American Eagle Outfitters stores located in 40 states, primarily those east of the Rockies; nearly all the units are in regional shopping malls. The stores average about 4,200 square feet in size. Approximately 98 percent of the chains sales are generated from private label brandsAmerican Eagle Outfitters, AE, and AE Supply; this focus on private-label merchandise was launched through a 1992 repositioning and was intended to differentiate American Eagle from its mall competitors, such as The Limited, The Gap, and Abercrombie & Fitch. To keep up with the latest fashion trends, the company employs an in-house design team, whose merchandise designs are then manufactured to specification by outside vendors or by American Eagles manufacturing subsidiary, Prophecy Ltd. This private-label/in-house design system enables American Eagle to keep tight control of quality and hold prices down; for example, its clothes typically cost from 15 to 30 percent less than comparable clothes at The Gap. Nearly half of the chains sales are for ladieswear, while menswear accounts for about 35 percent of sales and outdoorwear/accessories/footwear for about 17 percent. Customer credit is offered through an American Eagle Outfitters credit card. Approximately 60 percent of the companys stock is owned by the Schottenstein family, whose Schottenstein Stores Corp. is a large privately held company based in Columbus, Ohio, with numerous retail holdings.

1977 Debut

When American Eagle Outfitters was launched in 1977, it was part of Silvermans Menswear, Inc., a retailing company whose flagship was the Silvermans chain, which sold young mens apparel and accessories and was founded in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh), in 1904. The Silverman family owned and operated Silvermans Menswear, and by the mid-1970s two brothersin the third generation of Silvermans in the family businesswere running things: Jerry Silverman, president and CEO, and Mark Silverman, executive vice-president and COO. The Silverman brothers believed that they needed more than one concept to continue growing their companythat the addition of other chains would then enable them to operate more than one store in the same mall. They thus opened the first American Eagle Outfitters store in 1977, positioning it as a seller of brand-name leisure apparel, footwear, and accessories for men and women, with an emphasis on merchandise geared toward outdoor sports, such as hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. American Eagle quickly established itself as a mall store able to attract an unusually wide array of shoppers, although its rugged offerings were geared more toward men. And with a nationally distributed mail-order catalog supporting the retail units, the new chain quickly became a key competitor not only to such established retailers as The Gap but also to such venerable catalogers as L.L. Bean and Lands End.

In 1980 Silvermans Menswear changed its name to Retail Ventures, Inc. (RVI). That same year, the Silvermans ran into some financial difficulties and sold a 50 percent stake in RVI to the Schottenstein family. The Schottensteins owned Schottenstein Stores, a retailing giant based in Columbus, Ohio. Schottenstein Stores was founded in the early 20th century by E. L. Schottenstein when he opened the first Value City Department Store, a discount department store chain which by the early 1990s included 93 stores in 15 states generating about $1 billion in sales annually.

Became Focus of RVI in Mid-1990s

In 1985 RVI launched three more new chains: His Place and Go Places, concepts similar to that of Silvermans, and Help-Ur-Self, a bulk food store. The following year the company spent $8 million to expand its headquarters, adding 25,000 square feet to its office space and 146,000 square feet to its 119,000-square-foot distribution center. Also in 1986 RVI added 34 new stores to its existing 200. Many of these were American Eagle units, as the company began that year to concentrate more of its resources on American Eagle, which was achieving rapid sales growth, than on Silvermans, whose sales were being hurt from increasing competition, particularly from discount chains.

This shift in emphasis culminated in early 1989 when RVI announced a major restructuring in which it sold its Silvermans, His Place, and Go Places chainsa total of 125 storesto Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., a Towson, Maryland-based operator of 430 mall-based clothing stores, including Merry-Go-Round, Cignal, and Attivo. RVI also spun off to the Silver-man family the 11-store Help-Ur-Self chain, which had performed reasonably well but was not considered synergistic with American Eagle. RVI was thus left with American Eagle Outfittersnow with 137 stores in 36 states and sales of $125 millionas its single focus. The company planned to aggressively expand its sole remaining chain by as many as 120 stores over the following three years. It began to implement this plan but only after The Gap had approached RVI in early 1989 about buying American Eagle and after negotiations to do so had fallen through.

Sold to Schottensteins and Repositioned in Early 1990s

By mid-1991 American Eagle had grown to 153 storesnot nearly the expansion rate envisioned two years earlierand sales had stagnated. For the fiscal year ending in July 1991, sales were $144.3 million, a minuscule increase over the $142.4 million of the previous year. The chain also posted a net loss of $8.9 million for the year. In a deal designed to position American Eagle for renewed growth, the Schottenstein family bought the 50 percent of RVI owned by the Silverman family, giving the Schottensteins full control of the company and its only chain. Jay L. Schottenstein became the new chairman and CEO of RVI, replacing Mark Silverman, while Sam Forman was brought in to become president and COO. Forman had been CEO of Kuppenheimer Clothiers.

In the midst of the recessionary early 1990s, American Eagles difficulties could be traced in part to its line of branded merchandise. With brand-name apparel increasingly being offered by various clothing chains and discounters, American Eagle was facing increasing competition. Under its new ownership and leadership, the chain was repositioned in 1992 to focus on private-label casual apparel for men and women, while retaining the outdoor-oriented look for which it was best known. The private label strategy was intended to position American Eagle merchandise as value priced. The company also began opening American Eagle outlet stores to reduce its inventory of out-of-season clothing items.

Went Public in 1994

American Eagles 1994 fiscal year was its best year ever, evidence that the repositioning was working. Sales for the year were $199.7 million, while net income was a healthy $11.9 million. In the midst of this successful year, RVI announced that it would go public through an initial public offering. In November 1993 an American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. subsidiary was established and it was under this name that RVI and the American Eagle chain emerged in April 1994, with a listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange and with the Schottenstein family maintaining.roughly a 60 percent stake in the new company and Forman about ten percent. American Eagle went public as a 167-store chain with nine outlet stores and locations in 34 states.

Much of the approximate $37 million raised through the IPO was almost immediately poured back into the company for an aggressive program of expansion and renovation. From July through December of 1994 alone, 55 new stores were opened. At the one-year anniversary of the IPO, nearly 90 new stores had been added. Unfortunately, several of these new locations were unprofitable from the time they opened their doors, and it became apparent that the chain had expanded too rapidly.

Adding to the confusion at this time was a rapid succession of management changes. In early 1995 Forman was named vice-chairman, with Robert G. Lynn, a one-time president and CEO of F.W. Woolworth Co., becoming vice-chairman and COO and Roger S. Markfield, who had served as executive vice-president of merchandising, being promoted to president and chief merchandising officer. Lynn, however, left the company in December 1995 over reported management differences. Later that same month, George Kolber took over Lynns vice-chairman and COO spots.

Forman, meanwhile, sold his ten percent stake in American Eagle in early 1995, then in late 1995 resigned from his position as vice-chairman following his purchase of 32 American Eagle outlet stores in 18 states for between $14 million and $16 million. The company had decided to divest the outlets in order to concentrate on its mall locations, and it subsequently closed its remaining seven outlet stores. Forman signed a licensing agreement with American Eagle, whereby the outlets he purchased would operate under the American Eagle Outlets name and would sell merchandise made specifically for the outlets. Through all of these changes, Jay Schottenstein continued in his role of chairman and CEO.

Repositioned Again in 1996

The year 1996 was a transitional one for American Eagle as it cut back drastically on its expansion plans in order to reposition the chain once again. In search of higher-margin merchandise to offer, Markfield and Kolber determined that the chain had to sell more womens apparel, which is typically more profitable. The leaders also decided to completely divorce American Eagle of its once-eclectic range of customers and target the lucrative youth marketages 16 to 34through a younger and nipper feel to the clothing and in the chains marketing. Finally, American Eagle would strongly emphasize value pricing through a commitment to private label merchandise. Remaining at the chains core was its venerable rugged, outdoorsy style.

For fiscal 1996 (the first year of the companys new fiscal year, which now ended at the end of January), about 98 percent of the companys sales were generated from its private label brands, American Eagle Outfitters, AE, and AE Supply. Womens clothing, meantime, which in fiscal 1995 had accounted for only 30 percent of sales, accounted for 47 percent of sales in fiscal 1996.

If 1996 was a transitional year for American Eagle, then the transition went exceedingly well, as 1997 turned into a breakout year. For the year, sales increased 24.3 percent to a record $405.7 million, while net income more than tripled, going from $5.9 million in 1996 to $19.5 million in 1997. Comparable store sales were very strong, increasing 15.1 percent in 1997 compared to the previous year.

In addition to opening 32 new stores in 1997, American Eagle that year also for the first time began manufacturing its own clothing through the acquisition of Prophecy Ltd., a New York-based contract apparel maker which had been majority owned by the Schottenstein family. This move toward further vertical integration was in keeping with the chains desire to control costs and maintain quality. The terms of the purchase were $900,000 in cash plus a contingency payment of up to $700,000.

Early 1998 was a busy period for American Eagle as it introduced the AE Clear Card, the first clear credit card; announced plans to start selling merchandise from its web site, a move that would fit in well with the chains youth-oriented customer base (American Eagles mail-order catalog had been discontinued some years prior); and said it would open new units outside of enclosed malls, in airports, strip malls, and other locales. The renewed strength of American Eagle was also evident in two separate three-for-two stock splits, which occurred during the first five months of 1998. The company also announced that over the next several years it would expand its store count 15 to 20 percent each year; the largely untapped West Coast was likely to be a prime area of expansion. Also planned was an increase in average store size from 4,200 square feet to 5,000. And with its new youthful format that emphasized womens clothing, American Eagle was beginning to revamp many of its older stores whose designs were very masculine. All of these developments pointed toward a bright future for a company that seemed destined to outfit Americans for years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries

Prophecy Ltd.

Further Reading

Benson, Betsy, Retail Ventures Plans Restructuring: New Focus on American Eagle Outfitters Unit, Pittsburgh Business, February 27, 1989.

Fitzpatrick, Dan, New Lines Pace American Eagle Comeback Bid, Pittsburgh Business Times, December 30, 1996, pp. 1 +.

Gallagher, Jim, Gap Wont Buy American Eagle, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 18, 1989.

Much, Marilyn, Retailer Moves into New Venues, Cyberspace, Investors Business Daily, January 30, 1998, p. A3.

Phillips, Jeff, Schottensteins Buy 153 Stores, Business First of Columbus, June 3, 1991, pp. 1 +.

Walters, Rebecca, American Eagle Going Public, Business First of Columbus, March 21, 1994.

David E. Salamie

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American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

founded: 1977



Contact Information:

headquarters: 150 thorn hill dr.
warrendale, pa 15086-7528 phone: (724)776-4857 fax: (412)779-5585 toll free: (888)a-eagle5 email: [email protected] url: http://www.ae-outfitters.com

OVERVIEW

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. is a specialty retailer of women's and men's casual apparel, footwear, outer-wear, and accessories. Its products include denim, khakis, skirts, sweaters, shirts, belts, socks, and bags—all of which are sold in 335 malls and outlet malls in 39 states, principally in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast.




COMPANY FINANCES

Business at American Eagle Outfitters has been booming since 1996. In fiscal 1997 sales soared to $405.7 million, up from $326.4 million in fiscal 1996. The company reported net earnings of $19.5 million for fiscal 1997, compared with $5.9 million in fiscal 1996. In the first quarter of fiscal 1998, the company reported net earnings of $5.9 million on sales of $99.7 million; this compared with a net loss of $3.6 million in the first quarter of fiscal 1997. Same-store sales increased 15.1 percent in fiscal 1997.

Shareholders who own American Eagle stock have reason to cheer as well. In June 1998, the company's stock was up nine-fold from the prior year. The company announced one 3-for-2 stock split in January 1998 and another in April 1998. Per-share earnings in fiscal 1997 tripled to $1.28. American Eagle Outfitters stock was listed at $34 in June 1998. As of April 1, 1998, there were 83 shareholders on record. The company has never paid cash dividends and doesn't anticipate paying any in the future.

ANALYSTS' OPINIONS

Although the fashion industry is notoriously unpredictable, many analysts like the direction American Eagle Outfitters is going. The company is one of 12 pace-setters chosen by the Daily News Record in 1998. The choice was based on the "innovative," "exciting," and "especially creative" things the company is doing in the men's wear scene. According to the article, "with third quarter (fiscal 1997) net tripling to $6.3 million and same-store sales surging to 18.8 percent in December (1997), it's clear that Warrendale, Pa.-based American Eagle Outfitters has found a winning formula."

The Bloomberg News reports that five analysts recommend investors buy American Eagle Outfitters stock. "I'm a big fan of American Eagle," notes stock analyst Thomas A. Filandro in the Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News. Analyst Maria Medaris O'Shea, in a report for Bankers Trust Alex Brown Inc., writes that "longer term, we remain impressed with American Eagle's merchandising initiatives and long-term strategies for sales and earnings growth." Analysts also point to the company's focus on the same core age group and the right mix of casual and fashionable clothes, both of which are keys to its success.

Other analysts feel that American Eagle Outfitters stock cannot continue to post the sharp gains it has in recent months. Caroline Waxler of Forbes said in a June 1998 article that the company is about to "hit a wall. . . .There's no way the company can continue its current 70 percent-plus monthly rate of same-store sales growth," she reasons. Waxler predicts that the stock will drop 30 percent as sales growth stalls.




HISTORY

American Eagle Outfitter's first store opened in 1977. The stores originally sold branded men's sports apparel, equipment, and accessories for outdoor sports, including hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. When its first store opened, retail operations were run by Natco through its subsidiary Peatro. In 1991 Peatro was experiencing substantial losses, and the Jerome Schottenstein family acquired the company, along with Retail Ventures, another specialty clothing store operator. (The Schottensteins are heirs of Lithuanian immigrant Ephraim Schottenstein, whose business interests included real estate, clothing, and furniture stores.)

The Schottenstein family reconfigured American Eagle Outfitters' merchandise mix, improved the look of its retail outlets, brought in new management, and expanded the number of store locations. The company repositioned itself to sell its own American Eagle brand clothing in 1992. In November 1993, American Eagle Outfitters was incorporated in Ohio, and in January 1994, the company went public, with the Schottenstein family retaining a 60 percent ownership.

American Eagle Outfitters has two wholly owned subsidiaries, formed in 1995. The first holds the trade name American Eagle Outfitters, and the second is a finance subsidiary set up to provide financing to its parent company. Two years later, American Eagle Outfitters acquired Prophecy, Ltd., an apparel maker based in New York. The majority owner of Prophecy was the Schottenstein family.

American Eagle also launched a line of women's casual clothing in 1995. The company has added 213 new American Eagle Outfitters stores since 1993 and planned to add an additional 50 in 1998.




STRATEGY

By the late 1990s, American Eagle Outfitters began to more clearly define its target customers and began implementing what the company refers to as a "back to basics" approach to merchandising and marketing. American Eagle's target customer is "a collegiate, 20-year-old male or female who desires fashionable, yet affordable, all-American, casual lifestyle apparel." By targeting 20-year-olds, the company hopes to broaden its customer base to include 16- to 34-year-olds. Customers in this age group tend to buy clothes more often than older customers and they spend more money, according to stock analyst Thomas A. Filandro, who was quoted in an April 1998 Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News article.

According to American Eagle Outfitters, company management has adopted five operating strategies to "differentiate the company from its competition, improve profitability, and consistently increase net sales." Building the American Eagle Outfitters brand is first and foremost among the company's strategies. In 1997, American Eagle's three brands made up 99 percent of company sales. Management intends to keep it this way, and it has supported company brands with special marketing and advertising programs that emphasize a wholesome, youthful, outdoor image. Marketing and promotional partnerships with manufacturers of mountain bikes, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and jet skis are among the alliances forged to appeal to American Eagle's core clientele.

Providing value to its target customers is another key American Eagle strategy. "Fashionable interpretations of fundamental wardrobe items," such as jeans, sweaters, khakis, and T-shirts, are offered by American Eagle Outfitters. The merchandise price points are competitive with or lower than comparable mall-based stores.

Designing its own merchandise with an in-house team of designers provides American Eagle a competitive advantage. Designers can quickly interpret fashion trends for its target customers and design garments that can be merchandised at competitive prices.

American Eagle Outfitters integrates its merchandise production and sourcing. When American Eagle purchased Prophecy in May 1997, it gained the ability to monitor the production of its clothing and to improve its sourcing. The company hopes the end result will be lower costs and more timely delivery of clothing to its stores.

Timing is everything to American Eagle Outfitters, especially when it comes to rolling out new seasonal clothing lines. The company plans to display store merchandise closer to the season when it will be worn. Traditional merchandising theory calls for rolling out merchandise in advance of the season. However, American Eagle claims that its customer base tends to make its purchases at the time they will be worn. The company also plans to adjust its merchandise mix according to the various climates where its stores are located.

FAST FACTS: About American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.


Ownership: American Eagle Outfitters is a publicly owned company traded on NASDAQ.

Ticker symbol: AEOS

Officers: Jay L. Schottenstein, Chmn. & CEO, 42, 1997 base salary $250,050; George Kolber, VChmn. & COO, 46, 1997 base salary $407,692; Saul Schottenstein, 76, VChmn.; Roger S. Markfield, Pres. & Chief Merchandising Officer, 55, 1997 base salary $412,464

Employees: 6,685

Principal Subsidiary Companies: American Eagle has two wholly owned subsidiaries, one of which holds the trade name American Eagle Outfitters and the other is a finance subsidiary whose purpose is to provide financing to the parent company.

Chief Competitors: American Eagle Outfitters competes with retailers of casual apparel and footwear marketed to young customers. Some primary competitors include: Abercrombie & Fitch; The Buckle; The Gap; J. Crew; Lands' End; The Limited; L.L. Bean; and Pacific Sunwear.


INFLUENCES

In 1996 American Eagle Outfitters launched its own credit card. The company is pleased with the results, with more than 300,000 cardholders by spring 1998. This move has been responsible for increasing the company's total sales per customer. American Eagle Outfitters' credit card sales accounted for more than 8 percent of total sales volume in fiscal 1997. The company has found that holders of store credit cards typically spend nearly 40 percent more than customers using Visa and Mastercard.

The AE Clear Card was introduced by the company in Spring 1998. Touted as the first of its kind, the card is actually clear; that is, you can see through it. The new credit card was designed to increase brand awareness and strengthen the company's identity. "It's a fun, original concept that looks cool and separates AE from other retailers," said Michael James Leedy, vice president of marketing and creative sevices for American Eagle Outfitters, in a company press release.



CURRENT TRENDS

While American Eagle Outfitters is still positioned to target the 20-year-old male collegian, the company is increasingly focused on attracting women into its stores. Since women shop more frequently than men, the company hopes to capitalize on this sales potential. Dresses have become a bigger part of the stores' merchandise mix. Store design also has been refined to attract a more feminine clientele. Hardwood floors, light-colored wooden fixtures, and off-white walls create a clean and casual ambience. In 1997, additional fitting rooms were added to approximately 100 American Eagle Outfitters stores to accommodate the increase in female clientele. The company tries to maintain a uniform look throughout all of its stores. Regional "visual directors" were added to the company payroll to insure that merchandise displays and selling floor arrangements are kept identical from store to store.

Opening stores in new and existing markets is an effort the company undertook in the early 1990s and continues in the late 1990s. Since 1993, American Eagle Outfitters has added 213 stores. In 1997, it opened 36 more stores and announced plans to add 50 more in 1998. In the years ahead, the company plans to continue expansion at an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent. Since the company is focused on growing its women's apparel business, it has found it necessary to locate stores with 20 percent more floor space in order to better accommodate a full line of both men's and women's merchandise.

In its expansion efforts, American Eagle will continue focusing on increasing the number of stores in regional malls. The company estimates that there are at least 500 additional enclosed mall locations that are suitable for its stores. High traffic street locations in urban and university settings, as well as airports and strip malls, would also be considered attractive opportunities for expansion. The company continues to evaluate the feasibility of expanding in the western United States—in 1997 only one store was located west of the Rocky Mountains.

American Eagle Outfitters has recognized that the Internet offers a unique potential for expanding its customer base, and in 1997, the company launched its interactive web site featuring "The Line," where customers can see samples of American Eagle Outfitters apparel. Customers also may purchase merchandise through the web site. Another web site feature, "The List," is American Eagle Outfitters' guide to current trends in music, media, and travel. Included in the list are the company "picks" of current music CDs, movies, books, and magazines, as well as horoscopes and a question-and-answer feature on a "hot" movie personality. The site also offers corporate information, opportunities to apply for company store credit, and employment openings.




PRODUCTS

American Eagle Outfitters sells casual, outdoor-oriented clothes and accessories to men and women between the ages of 16 and 34. Khakis, denim jeans, shirts, shorts, dresses, wool and cotton sweaters, knit shirts, jackets, shoes, belts, socks, and bags make up American Eagle Outfitters' line of apparel.

The company's three private label brands are American Eagle Outfitters, AE, and AE Supply. American Eagle's in-house design team interprets fashion trends and then incorporates them into apparel design; the clothes are then manufactured using outside vendors.

CHRONOLOGY: Key Dates for American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.


1977:

The first American Eagle store opens, selling branded men's sports apparel

1991:

The Schottenstein family acquires American Eagle

1992:

Starts selling American Eagle brand clothing

1993:

American Eagle Outfitters is incorporated

1994:

The company goes public

1995:

Starts selling a line of women's casual clothing

1997:

Purchases apparel maker Prophecy, Ltd.


In 1998, women's wear made up 50 percent of American Eagle's sales. Men's wear accounted for 41 percent of sales and outdoor wear, while accessories and footwear generated 9 percent of sales.

CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP

American Eagle Outfitters was involved in two lawsuits regarding its business practices in 1998. In the first case, clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch filed a lawsuit against the company over alleged imitation of its products and operations. American Eagle Outfitters responded to the suit in a company press release, saying it was "meritless, frivolous, and bordering on ridiculous. For example, we're being sued for using primary colors and 'all natural fabrics.'"

The second litigation, filed in federal court, involves two Detroit teenagers who were detained at an American Eagle Outfitters store at an area mall on suspicion of shoplifting T-shirts. The lawsuit, which asks for damages of $21 million, alleges that the store clerks monitored the 18- and 19-year-old African-America customers very closely. After they left the store, they were approached by an American Eagle employee and a mall security guard who took them to an office where police later interrogated and handcuffed them. According to the Detroit Free Press, "Because store employees said they were missing some T-shirts, police examined the T-shirts the teens had on under their sweater vests. Police concluded their shirts did not come from the store. But they confiscated their vests, which the teens had bought the previous day, and said they would return them only if the two could produce receipts." The teens alleged that they were singled out because they are African-Americans. Joe Kerin, executive vice president of American Eagle Outfitters, responded in the Detroit Free Press by saying that "American Eagle Outfitters has a strong history of nondiscrimination. We hired a law firm that reported to us that what happened in the store had nothing to do with race discrimination."




EMPLOYMENT

In the late 1990s, American Eagle Outfitters employed approximately 6,700 people in its 330 store locations and Warrendale headquarters. An executive vice president of store operations, six regional managers, and 37 district managers—each of whom supervises an average of nine stores—are responsible for store operations. A store manager, two assistant managers, and a mix of 9 to 15 full- and part-time sales associates make up the sales teams in individual stores.

In 1997, the company introduced a new in-store training program to provide on-site training and skills development for the stores' sales and managerial staff members. Called AE University, the user-friendly training system includes a video that employees can use at their own pace. In addition to the training program, in 1997 American Eagle also introduced a new sales incentive program called AE Rewards. In this program, sales associates earn points for achieving sales productivity goals; these points can be redeemed for merchandise from an AE Rewards catalog.

American Eagle Outfitters posts current job openings at its home office, as well as field positions, on its web site. Available positions are coded in the job description, and applications may be made directly from the web site. Medical, dental, and life insurance; short-and long-term disability; six paid holidays and three personal days a year; merchandise discounts; a matching 401(k) program; profit sharing; and an employee stock purchase plan make up the benefits package offered to company employees.




SOURCES OF INFORMATION

Bibliography

"american eagle outfitters, inc." hoover's online, june 1998. available at http://www.hoovers.com.

american eagle outfitters, inc. 1997 annual report. warrendale, pa: american eagle outfitters, 1997.

lindeman, teresa f. "pennsylvania-based american eagle outfitters rides high on youth wave." knight-ridder/tribune business news, 28 april 1998.

"the new retail establishment: twelve chains that are setting the pace in today's men's wear scene." daily news record, 9 february 1998.

oguntoyinbo, lekan. "teenagers sue store, mall, claiming discrimination." the detroit free press, 25 april 1998.

——. "clothier stands by its actions in dispute." detroit free press, 31 march 1998.

palmieri, jean. "santa smiles on jay jacobs, american eagle; men's sweaters and suits help chains register 18% gains in december." daily news record, 7 january 1998.

waxler, caroline. "eagle swoops." forbes, 15 june 1998.


For an annual report:

telephone: (724)776-4857


For additional industry research:

investigate companies by their standard industrial classification codes, also known as sics. american eagle outfitters' primary sics are:

2311 men/boys' suits & coats

2321 men/boys' shirts

2325 men/boys' trousers & slacks

2331 women/misses' blouses & shirts

2337 women/misses' suits & coats

2339 women/misses' outerwear nec

2387 apparel belts

3143 men's footwear, except athletic

3144 women's footwear, except athletic

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