American Eagle Outfitters (
) heads into the homestretch of the back-to-school shopping
season with prospects of scoring high grades with shoppers.
The teen and young-adult clothing retailer cited a very good
start to the back-to-school period on its Aug. 22 second-quarter
conference call. And if analysts are on target, American
Eagle should end up with a good report card for the entire
season, which runs from late July to mid-September.
"Among the three major specialty retailers of preppy-style
apparel -- American Eagle,Aeropostale (
) andAbercrombie & Fitch (
) -- American Eagle looks outstanding for back-to-school in terms
of merchandise content and positioning, including its value
proposition and marketing," said B. Riley & Co. analyst Jeff
Van Sinderen. My sense is that among these three, American Eagle
will have the most improved margins for back-to-school this
After a good start to the back-to-school season, American
Eagle should see continued momentum through August and September,
adds Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions.
"I wouldn't be surprised if third-quarter sales and earnings
came in stronger than expected because they're taking so much
market share from their key competitors," he said.
The upbeat prospects come at a time when American Eagle's
business is sizzling with two straight quarters of double-digit
In the most recent second quarter, earnings surged 62% to 21
cents a share. That excluded charges from the sale of its 77kids
business and other one-time items. Sales grew 11% to $740
million, ahead of views. Same-store sales, including its online
division, rose 9%, vs. a 1% gain last year.
American Eagle has come back impressively after tough going on
and off the past few years. Earnings slipped 16% in 2011. Now,
thanks to the efforts of Chief Executive Robert Hanson, who took
the helm Jan. 30, American Eagle is on the comeback trail.
Hanson came to the company from Levi Strauss, where he was
global president of the Levi's Brand. He replaced Jim O'Donnell,
Hanson has done a good job getting American Eagle back on
track through changes in areas such as more frequent flows of
fresh fashion merchandise into the stores and leaner inventory
for better margins, says Van Sinderen.
On the merchandising front, Hanson has emphasized American
Eagle's core areas of strength -- such as denim for
back-to-school -- through sharper product content, better visual
merchandising and better marketing positioning of the value
proposition, Van Sinderen says.
"This back-to-school season is an example of them really
leading in the denim category," he adds.
Sozzi says Hanson has streamlined the supply chain so that
American Eagle is able to flow fashionable products to the stores
At the same time, the merchandising team has increased the
fashion content of American Eagle's merchandise with added
touches like bright colors in categories such as denim and girls'
Last Monday the American Eagle store in Times Square had a
huge assortment of fashion items, including girls' knit tops in
hot pink, green and other bright colors. In addition to basic
blue jeans, girls' jeans came in prints and bold colors such as
peach and green.
"They've hit their stride with the right fashions," said
Followers expect American Eagle to keep up the momentum.
Analyst polled by Thomson Reuters see full-year earnings up 58%
to $1.36 a share. They forecast a 12% increase in 2013 and a 13%
rise in 2014.
Van Sinderen says the turnaround, which is only in the early
innings, is sustainable.
"To the extent they continue to execute well I think it's
sustainable," he said. "The company has the capability and
potential to get back to a mid-teen operating margin over the
next year to 18 months. They're headed in that direction."
American Eagle, he adds, is doing well for back-to-school,
especially vs. last year, and is resonating much better with
customers. He expects American Eagle to have a strong Christmas
holiday this year.
Sozzi says he thinks the momentum it gathered the past two
quarters is sustainable at least until the end of the year.
"They captured the minds of teens in two key periods -- the
spring, and they're off to a very good start for back-to-school,"
He expects it will also be a place where parents and teens go
to buy gifts during the holiday season.