Aéropostale has turned up the retail wattage in Manhattan’s Times Square, opening a global flagship in the heart of the tourist Mecca. The two-level, 19,000-sq.-ft. space — the teen retailer’s largest store yet — is designed to raise the chain’s profile and serve as a platform for its international expansion. The company is on track to have 50 stores in Canada and 10 in Dubai by year’s end.
“With some 2 million visitors on a daily basis, Times Square has become a true shopping destination. We think this store will set the foundation for our global reach,” said Ken Ohashi, VP investor and media relations, Aéropostale, which operates 901 namesake stores in 49 states and Puerto Rico, and 40 P.S. from Aéropostale kids stores in 12 states.
The new Aéropostale combines the latest in high-tech interactivity with traditional Big Apple accents and cues. The store, which is completely wireless, dazzles passers-by with a 120-ft., interactive LED display system that moves across the facade and weaves in and out of the building.
The three-panel display can act as one sign or three independent ones, with content that includes images from the retailer’s seasonal campaigns, promotional messages and exclusive video. In the 700-sq.-ft. Balcony area on the second floor, shoppers can dance with virtual Aéropostale models and have their images projected on the digital display some 20 minutes later. (With windows facing three sides, the Balcony also provides unparalleled views of Times Square below.)
“The 20-minute delay gives the customer time to get outside and look up and see themselves,” Ohashi said.
The fact that Aéropostale has dedicated 700 sq. ft. of selling space to an area with no merchandise is unusual to say the least.
“We want to be engaging,” said Scott Birnbaum, senior VP marketing, Aéropostale. “It’s a larger-than-life experience — getting to see yourself dancing on that screen. And we also wanted to showcase Times Square.”
Interior: The store design celebrates Aéropostale’s heritage and its New York City roots and locale. It uses such authentic materials and elements as subway tiles, metal and polished concrete, and subway-styled mosaics. A recurring design element — columns styled as girders with rivets — was inspired by the architecture of the city. Shoppers pass by an illuminated vintage Aéropostale sign as they ride up the escalator.
“We want to give customers a fun and engaging shopping experience while capturing the essence of New York City,” Ohashi said. “Aéropostale is a New York City-based brand, and we want to celebrate our hometown.”
The massive space allows Aéropostale to present a much deeper selection of its core categories than it can in its mall stores. The retailer takes full advantage, with complete displays and evocative, lifestyle merchandising.
“This store reflects our evolution into a teen lifestyle brand,” Birnbaum explained. “Over the years, we have integrated more fashion into our assortment, and we are really able to focus on that here because of the added space.”
Several clothing categories are housed in separate, in-store shops complete with their own elements. For example, the design of the “Denim Library” was inspired by the New York Public Library. The department is outfitted with antique lighting fixtures, used books, library ladders and library catalog-styled signage. It even has a fiberglass statue of a lion that resembles the marble lions guarding the Public Library.
Approximately 15% to 20% of the merchandise mix at the Times Square location is exclusive to it, and much of it is displayed in the “SoHo Shop.” The space is surrounded by a cast-iron facade and, in keeping with the SoHo theme, has mahogany wood floors, a pressed tin ceiling and brick walls. A Brooklyn Bridge-etched mirror hangs behind the cashwrap.
The “Dorm Room” is fashioned after every teen girl’s New York apartment fantasy. It’s feminine and inviting, with glittering chandeliers and an oversized blue brocade settee.
One of Aéropostale’s most important core businesses, graphic T-shirts, occupies prominent space near the front door. The department is laid out so that it can remain open for business two hours after the rest of the store closes.
Aéropostale isn’t commenting as to the store’s projected volume. Birnbaum said the chain’s mall locations average $635 per square foot. “This store will do significantly more,” he added.
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