Teen-focused retailers Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters and Aeropostale have lost their cool image and are now turning to social media and improved supply chains in order to compete with cheaper, trendier rivals like H&M and Forever 21, according to the Washington Post.
Teenagers’ preferences have shifted away from logo-bedecked clothing in favor of personalized fast fashion, which requires apparel chains to constantly monitor social-media services such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter—just like teens are doing to find fashion ideas.
But making up-to-the-minute, wallet-friendly garments also requires a supply network that stretches across the globe and delivers quickly. That’s testing the retail industry’s traditionally slower ways of churning out merchandise on a seasonal basis. Now, designs must go from Internet buzz to factory floor to a suburban mall in a matter of weeks.
In response, Abercrombie has shortened its development cycle, adopted “fabric platforming”—buying a large quantity of a single material so it can be used to create a variety of clothing pieces depending on how trends bubble up—and expanded its U.S. and South American production capabilities in order to get clothes to market faster. Meanwhile, American Eagle has turned to Twitter and Instagram to reintroduce the brand to shoppers, and Aeropostale has partnered on a clothing collection with Bethany Mota, a teenager who runs a popular YouTube channel focused on fashion, hairstyling and makeup.
All three retailers have reported slumping sales and declining profits. Abercrombie plans to close up to 70 stores this year. American Eagle will close 50 stores and its stock price has slid nearly 9 percent this year. Aeropostale’s stock has tumbled almost 60 percent.