Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Store Intel: July 23, 2013

We are at the very beginning of back to school season---(hard to believe its still July)--and we will stay in touch each week with updates and opinions as it relates to top line sales and potential issues that might be cause for concern. Our first visit to the names we discussed below,was more of an overview with a more detailed process to take place as we progress through period. At this time we feel overall in the entire teen space business has been very choppy for July. Each of the names we have reviewed have made similar comments regarding the pace of business and through our observations, it appeared that the consumer was shopping more clearance items than regular price back to school product.

Urban Outfitters (URBN) - At this early stage of back to school, URBN is our favorite. The product is on trend , pricing more in line with the $39-$69 lane which we feel is the correct space for a bit more upscale of a consumer relative to ARO and AEO. Some particular callouts are:
  • Great dress presentation in both short and maxi lengths. Whether it be crochet, prints or knits URBN has the absolute strongest assortments in this category . The value is very evident with most of the items in this category priced between $59-$69. 
  • Outstanding novelty printed bottoms in jeggings, rayon printed pieces are very novel and not seen in any of their competitors
  • Fantastic presentation of the "military" inspired trend in novelty tops as well as color direction.
The uniqueness of the product makes this one of our favorite names in the space. Keep in mind URBN is not in direct competition with ARO,AEO,ANF because their demographic are skewed to an older teen customer. We have always felt a URBN customer goes into their late 20's and early 30's which separates them from the other names.

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) - The denim event from this past week which was up to 50% off in all denim categories seems to be very disappointing. Of all the stores we previewed ANF was the least prepared for back to school at this early date. The product we reviewed was too logo driven, and lack newness in both the top and bottom categories. Noticeable misses in most categories such as dresses, sweaters, knit and woven tops for girls. Many of the stores we reviewed had a surprising amount of empty shelves which we have never seen before at ANF. For the most part ANF is well stocked with product at all times. At this time we are very concerned about this name.

Aéropostale (ARO) - Several stores visits leads us to believe, like the other names we have mentioned, business through July has been challenging. Very impressed with their lifestyle presentation of product in the stores. Each display had footwear, accessories, cosmetic's shown within each assortment to provide this YOUNG teen customer fabulous options. We feel the back to school presentations that we saw were skewed to a younger teen consumer relative to AEO ,ANF and URBN. As we had stated in previous notes, at this time it is difficult to gauge how much of an increase in foot traffic is taking place but we feel that the B and C locations are making an improvement in foot traffic while the more affluent areas are still seeing some résistance. In conclusion, we see a significant amount of upside with this name but not sure if back to school is where it is going to happen. ARO has made monumental strides forward in product assortments and presentations so we applaud the improvements and are confident a significant upside turn is in the very near future.

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) - Very much the same conversation regarding current business. Most of the customers we saw in the various stores were shopping clearance merchandise. Regarding back to school assortments we found many compelling product categories such as jeggings and knit tops for girls. We liked the color assortments in bottoms which were quite focused , not too over assorted and excellent wear now items in all categories including sweaters. We would rank AEO the second best in the teen space.

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