Aeropostale joins stampede of US retailers eyeing UK entry

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The Independent Online

The young fashion giant Aeropostale is the latest US retailer planning to launch in the UK, as American chains look to offset sluggish sales at home.

Aeropostale has 914 stores in the US and is planning to open in the UK in the second half of 2012, with London likely to be its debut city. Such a move would put the retailer – which targets 14- to 17-year-olds of both sexes – on a collision course with other US retailers that have launched in the UK, including Gap, Hollister and Urban Outfitters.

American Eagle, another of Aeropostale's rivals in the US, is also looking to enter the British market.

Aeropostale, which also has 60 shops in Canada, has been considering launching in the UK for more than a year but its property team have stepped up their efforts recently.

A source said: "They are now coming over reasonably regularly. There are quite a lot of landlords in the UK who are putting in a lot of effort and time with them." US retailers are battling tough trading conditions at home and see the UK – particularly the resilient London market – as a way to take up the slack. The American chains have also taken note of the roll-out of Hollister, which is part of the same group as Abercrombie & Fitch, and Banana Republic in the UK.

Another source said: "The story is largely that US retailers are doing badly at home and they see the success that a number of other chains have had over here."

The New York-listed Aeropostale – which also has shops in Puerto Rico – saw profits rise by 1 per cent to $231.3m, on sales of $2.4bn, in the year to 29 January but has endured a weak start to its current financial year. Its net income slumped by 64 per cent to $16.4m over the 13 weeks to 30 April.

Unveiling the results in May, Aeropostale's chief executive, Thomas Johnson, said: "While we are disappointed with our current performance, we are confident that our entire organisation is focused on the right initiatives to regain market share. Our goals for the remainder of the year remain very clear – regain balance and clarity in our merchandise assortments, mitigate industry-wide cost increases, and manage our cost structure conservatively and carefully."

Its like-for-like sales fell 7 per cent in the first quarter, although new store openings helped it increase total sales by 1 per cent to $469.2m.

The fashion group – which also caters to 7- to 12-years-olds with its PS from Aeropostale stores – did not respond to requests for comment.

It is not just US fashion chains that plan to launch in the UK, despite the turbulent trading conditions outside of London.

Williams-Sonoma, the upmarket US home furnishings and gourmet cookware chain, is planning to launch in the UK next year, while another US home furnishings chain, CB2 – the stablemate of the homewares giant Crate & Barrel – is also targeting the UK.

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