Aéropostale flies high in the world of youth fashion. The retailer operates more than 1,050 mostly mall-based stores under the Aéropostale and P.S. from Aéropostale (for kids) banners in 50 US states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Aéropostale stocks the usual teen outerwear (jeans, T-shirts, accessories), mostly under the Aéropostale and Aéro names. It designs and sources its own merchandise so that it can quickly respond to trends. The Aéropostale name originated from a 1920s airmail firm, Compagnie Generale Aéropostale. The brand was created by R.H. Macy & Co. as a private label in the 1980s and later became a specialty store concept.
Aéropostale rang up 95% of its $2.3 billion in fiscal 2012 (ends January) sales in the US. The remainder came from Canada, where it operates about 70 shops in seven provinces. Beyond North America, licensees operate about a dozen Aéropostale and P.S. from Aéropostale shops in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Bahrain.
In addition to its main chain Aéropostale stores, the retailer operates P.S. from Aéropostale (launched in 2009), a casual-apparel chain for kids between the ages of 4 and 12. P.S. from Aéropostale operates about 70 stores in 20 US states. The company also operates the GoJane.com website, based in Ontario, California.
Historically a high flier on the youth fashion scene, Aéropostale's sales dipped and profits took a nose dive in fiscal 2012 (ends January). Indeed, sales fell by more than 2% vs. the prior year, while net income plunged 70% over the same period. Cash flow from operations continued its two-year decline as well. The drop off in sales resulted from a 9% decline in same-store sales (vs. an increase of 1% in fiscal 2011), partially offset by an increase in store count and higher online sales vs. the prior year. Both the young men's and women's categories suffered declines in comparable sales. The decrease in net income was attributed to $16 million related to store asset impairment charges.
To reverse its one-year sales slide, Aéropostale is repositioning the brand and working to improve its merchandise and marketing. (It's interesting to note that the chain enjoyed double-digit sales increases during the deep recession, while pricier retailers, notably rival Abercrombie & Fitch, suffered. Now with the economy improving, value-priced Aéropostale is struggling.) Still, the company plans to continue to open new stores in fiscal 2013: about eight Aéropostale locations and approximately 30 P.S. from Aéropostale shops. Turkey is also on the company's plan for expansion. Indeed, Aéroposale recently signed a licensing agreement with FiBA Group to open some 30 stores across Turkey by 2016.
Aéropostale is also focused on expanding its fast-growing e-commerce business with new product categories. To this end, the company bought online women's fashion footwear and apparel retailer GoJane.com in late 2012.
Extending its retail reach from 14- to 17-year-olds to younger kids, the company launched P.S. from Aéropostale in 2009. The brand targets elementary schoolers, offers casual apparel and accessories, and competes with other brands aimed at kids, including crewcuts (by J. Crew) and abercrombie (Abercrombie & Fitch). Retailers establish these kid-oriented feeder brands with the hope that when they grow up they will shop at the teen stores.
Chairman Julian Geiger stepped down as CEO in 2010 and turned the top job over to a pair of executives: Mindy Meads and Thomas Johnson, who were serving as co-CEOs. Before joining Aéropostale, Meads served as CEO of Land's End and Victoria's Secret Direct. Johnson has been with the firm for about a decade, previously serving as an EVP and COO. Just before the end of 2010 Meads resigned to pursue other interests, leaving her counterpart Johnson alone in the cockpit.
Investment firm FMR LLC owns about 15% of Aéropostale's shares. – less