How Aeropostale went from bankrupt mall retailer to trending TikTok model in 5 years

Five years after going bankrupt, Aeropostale and parent company ABG have been slowly working to change the brand’s outlook, starting with a renewed focus on the Generation Z consumer. Thanks to the focus on denim and some timely virality on TikTok, the brand now stands a lot better there than 2016.

Aeropostale’s back-to-school line of products launched on Monday is strong denim with a variety of new fits and washes for men and women. According to Natalie Levy, chief merchandising officer at Aeropostale, denim was only a small part of the business when she joined the company in 2017. The sales ratio for tops-to-bottoms was three to one, with graphic t-shirts being the largest items to sell. Now denim is the brand’s # 1 category, with current sales 50% higher than 2019.

After several years of market research, the focus on denim was a strategic decision, according to Levy. Aeropostale has followed Gen Z’s growing disinterest in skinny jeans, which were incredibly popular with millennials. Mom jeans, baggy jeans and “skater jeans” – all cut loosely – make up 40% of Aero’s jeans sales for women, while jeggings make up the majority of the rest. Last year only one looser fit for women was sold – the boyfriend jeans. It only accounted for 7% of total denim sales in the category, which shows the sudden turnaround.

“You don’t see any more girls in tight jeans anywhere,” Levy said.

According to Levy, denim is one of the best examples of how fashion trends and tactics that worked for older generations have to be thrown overboard when addressing Generation Z. Younger consumers have very different tastes when it comes to the fit and function of their clothes. They also have different media consumption habits that make traditional marketing methods less effective. Instead of highly produced content and developed campaigns on Instagram, for example, according to Levy, unplanned moments on TikTok made up a large part of Aeropostale’s success with Gen Z last year.

“Our ‘tiny tops’ absolutely blew up on TikTok,” Levy said, referring to the wave of posts about the brand’s crop tops that began in April. “Millions of hits. But it was kind of coincidental. You can’t predict when it will happen, but you can support it in retrospect. “

The hashtag “Tiny Tops” exploded on TikTok in April with more than 500 videos posted. While the hashtag wasn’t limited to Aeropostale – other brands like American Eagle and Targets were also highlighted by the trend – Aero saw a huge surge in TikTok exposure. More than 33 million mentions of Aeropostale have been linked to this trend. Most of the posts are from women who make up 60% of Aeropostale customers.

Levy said the engagement was because the product was simply sent to TikTok users, including Lexi Hidalgo (1.6 million followers) who created videos for clothing transportation. No paid promotions or referrals drove the trend. Aeropostale’s sales of tiny tops have tripled since last year. Levy said store workers reported customers walking into stores asking for “the TikTok top.”

Levy said that when her social team found that “their phones were exploding,” they backed the trend by posting more TikTok content that focused on tiny tops and sending more of the style to influencers.

The surge in denim and tiny top sales comes barely five years after the company filed for bankruptcy. In 2016, Authentic Brands Group bought Aeropostale for $ 240 million from bankruptcy. Marc Miller, CEO of the joint venture SPARC, consisting of ABG and Simon Property Group, set out to turn the brand inside out.

Jamie Salter, CEO of ABG, told Glossy in January that there is a simple process for turning brands inside out that he enforces: find out who the target customer is and follow suit.

“I look at comscore data and everything, and that helps. But what you really have to pay attention to is: How much is our target consumer buying and how high are our margins? ”Said Salter. “If we don’t sell enough to the people we want to sell to, we have to do something else.”

While ABG doesn’t break down the sales of its brands one by one, the entire SPARC portfolio, which includes Nautica and Eddie Bauer, will bring in an estimated $ 8.6 billion in 2021.

To that end, Levy said the past few years have confirmed that strategy.

“I love seeing young Gen Zs on TikTok posting on Aeropostale,” Levy said, referring to posts like this one from Lexi Hidalgo to her 1.6 million followers, saying she was “obsessed” with Eero’s clothing.

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