American Eagle Outfitters will close between 65 and 100 stores in the U.S. in 2012 and 2013, shifting its focus to e-commerce and international expansion after experiencing increased Internet sales in the fourth quarter of 2010. The closings will bring the retailer's total store count to approximately 900.
"It's all pending lease discussions with the landlords, so it's a very dynamic number that it's very difficult to pin down and say specifically it's going to be this number or that," said James O'Donnell, CEO and president of American Eagle, in a recent conference call. "But we will have store closings at a greater rate than we have ever had in the past."
Total sales for Q4 decreased 4% to $916 million compared to $956 million in 2009 and comparable store sales decreased 7%, compared to a 5% increase last year.
However, the retailer's direct-to-consumer businesses, which include ae.com, aerie.com and 77kids.com, experienced a 4% sales increase in Q4, driven by increased traffic and higher conversion rates in December.
Additionally, the retailer plans to open 20 franchised AE stores in 2011 in the Middle East, China, Russia and Hong Kong after finding its e-commerce sales were very high in these areas.
"We are moving forward to enhance the capabilities and the reach of our e-commerce platform which will include exclusive merchandise and specialty shops combined with an increased focus on international growth," said O'Donnell. "Given the strength of the AE brand around the world, e-commerce is a natural complement to the international expansion."