Is there sufficient difference between the multitude of US casualwear retailers to persuade shoppers to keep shopping?
A lot of US casualwear retailers have taken up residence in the UK, but is there sufficient difference between them to persuade shoppers to keep shopping?
As US casualwear retailer American Eagle prepares to touch down in the UK, its first stores open in the two Westfield shopping centres in London and Bluewater next month, it is quite hard not to wonder what sort of a reception it will receive.
There is a sense of me-tooism about so many middle-America brands (OK, American Eagle is ‘headquartered’ in Pittsburgh, which is pretty much east in US terms, but that’s not really the point).
And the brand proposition goes something like this: lots of check shirts, jeans, branded hoodies, collarless tops and t-shirts. Other elements can be layered on top, but in essence this is what to expect when the threshold of an American Eagle store is crossed.
This is coupled with mid-shop wooden table displays where folded merchandise is given an outing, a wooden ceiling and then a crisp whitewash over much of the rest of the interior. The same is true in Gap and although the lighting is dimmed and the wood is darker, the modus operandi also holds good in Hollister.
And although brand, we are told, is all, there is more than a passing similarity between the product offers of all of these retailers – classic American clothing is relatively narrow in its field of vision.
Price is the major differentiator
The interesting point is that there is room for so many retailers offering more or less the same thing in interiors that are, in effect, variations on a theme. The major differentiator as far as many of these retailers is concerned is price and when home-grown Superdry and Jack Wills are added to the party in this country, this looks a crowded arena.
Will shoppers therefore be rushing into American Eagle when it makes its debut? The answer seems likely to be yes, for no better reason than that UK shoppers are an inquisitive bunch and like to check things out.
Yet once the razzamatazz has died down, what will persuade them to come to this one rather than, say, Gap? There is a sense of the anodyne about the interiors that many US retailers put forward. They are perfectly adequate and they certainly do the job as far as presenting the merchandise is concerned. Yet do they stir the blood? Possibly not and the challenge for American Eagle will be to do things differently in order to avoid shopper ennui.