Bob Dylan didn’t have the retail sector in mind when he penned “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” but nonetheless, Aéropostale’s fall from grace proves that even the most successful brands can fall off their high-perched pedestals much faster than it took them to get there.
In an interview with Retail Dive, several commerce experts shared their opinions on what finally drove the once-thriving teen fashion retailer to file for Chapter 11 protections in early May. While there was no single stake to the heart, Shelley Kohan, vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext, explained that Aéropostale’s insistence on following trends set by competitors, like Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, gave it little-to-no breathing room to grow — a dynamic that continues to plague the retailer as it attempts to dig itself out of bankruptcy.
“I think it’s going to be a struggle for them unless they quickly define a better specific target market and rethink their margin problem,” Kohan told Retail Dive. “When you have razor-thin margins, you cannot expense your way into a profit, and that’s always going to be a challenge for them. And they’re going to have to figure that out.”
Kohan also found fault with Aéropostale’s somewhat dated fashion product strategy, citing the brand’s large number of hoodies and graphic tees that no longer have the dedicated consumer base they did in the early 2000s. Combined with the fact that Aéropostale has found itself marketing not to fashion aficionados themselves but rather to mothers buying clothes for their pre-teen to tween children, the brand essentially painted itself into a corner that more striking and popular fashions wouldn’t make it past the discerning eye of mommy dearest.