American Eagle’s lingerie brand is thriving.
Aerie defied norms in 2014 by abandoning photo retouching of its models.
The idea to use unretouched photos in ad campaigns dawned on the creative team as a way to appeal to young women.
“We definitely had a creative moment where the team got together, and we just said, ‘really, what’s happening today with millennials and the next generation?'” Aerie’s president, Jennifer Foyle, said to Business Insider last summer. “And we really felt like girls today are just more independent and stronger than ever.”
“We just knew that it would really resonate with this generation,” she said, adding, “why would we even be airbrushing these models? They’re beautiful as is.”
That instinct was completely right.
Since nixing Photoshop, sales have continually soared. For the first quarter of fiscal 2016, Aerie’s comparable sales increased by an impressive 32%. To put it in perspective, in the first quarter of fiscal 2015, comparable sales increased by 12%. The recent growth comes on top of an impressive fiscal 2015, wherein comparable sales grew by 20% for the full year.
Aerie serves as an alternative for young women, who are often bombarded by unrealistic imagery from the media.
“I think if you look outside of what we’re doing [the lingerie industry’s models are] not realistic, and I don’t think it sets a good example,” Foyle said.
Now the brand plans to never look back.
“I think every brand needs to do what’s right for their brand,” Foyle said, regarding airbrushing in general.
But she doesn’t think retouching is a necessity. “I think it could be done without,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think we need to lean on it as hard as we think. And from my perspective, I would say it’s really up to the retailers, and what they really want to do. This is what we stand for, and this is what we want to do.”
Aerie is poised for tremendous growth.
“Next Aerie presents an incredible growth and opportunity, which I believe can double in size over the next several years,” now-CEO Jay Schottenstein said on an earnings call last year. RBC Capital Markets wrote in a note that parent company American Eagle anticipates Aerie sales will reach $500 million in the coming years. That’s still small compared to Victoria’s Secret’s total sales (including e-commerce) of nearly $7.7 billion, but the rapid and swift growth is making it a viable competitor.
“We want to become a real player in the intimates sector,” Foyle said to Business Insider.
And Foyle has plans that are bigger than just financial growth. “I always have this vision,” she said to Business Insider in March. “I could imagine girls holding hands across the entire country and uniting as one.”
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