American Eagle Outfitters plans to get talons into UK market

The US fashion retailer is the latest fashion brand to consider British high street
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The Independent Online

The US fashion retailer American Eagle Outfitters is planning to make a swoop into London.

The $2.9bn (£1.3bn) retailer, which is listed in New York, is reviewing its international expansion and is to make a play for the UK.

American Eagle Outfitters targets 15 to 25-year-olds and has more than 1,000 stores in the US and Canada.

The US has been the source of a flood of new fashion names to the UK high street and shopping centres – a welcome boost when some established UK names have been closing shops.

Last year saw the launch of the Los Angeles-based Forever 21 in Birmingham and Dublin, and this year its doors will open in Oxford Street and Stratford in London, and later on in Glasgow. It plans up to 100 stores in the UK.

Urban Outfitters and its sister brand Anthropologie are continuing their expansion across the UK, while the American "college kid" retailer Abercrombie & Fitch's Hollister brand has also grown its appetite for the UK market, with 19 shops – in Bristol, Norwich and Aberdeen among other sites.

The brands join well established fashion retailer Gap and its sister brand Banana Republic which opened in the UK in 2008. Gap is in the process of sprucing up its fashion ranges and has hired a team in New York to improve its style credentials.

Another US fashion retailer, Aéropostale, is also thought to have considered moving into the UK, but it has no immediate plans to do so. One US retailer still coveted by many UK shoppers is J Crew. It is so far reluctant to open UK stores, but is now selling in the UK online.

American Eagle Outfitters is thought to have hired UK property agent Harper Dennis Hobbs to look at opportunities for stores in central London.

Harper Dennis Hobbs declined to comment, but has advised a number of US retailers on their expansion into the UK and Europe, including Forever 21 and Ralph Lauren Polo.

If it secures a store in London, American Eagle would go head to head with UK-listed fashion brand Superdry. The branded young fashion arena is a crowded market, with home-grown retailers Jack Wills and Superdry both opening stores across the UK. But despite the competition, rival Hollister has so far been performing well.

The UK is facing challenging times ahead, with consumers likely to curb spending even further, but the picture for the US is not much better. There, retail sales rose in April at the slowest pace in nine months and consumer sentiment declined last week, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index and stats from the Commerce Department in Washington.