Industry insiders have stressed that US retailers must differentiate their offerings to succeed in the UK, as young fashion brand American Eagle Outfitters pulls out of the market.
American Eagle Westfield London
American Eagle closed its store at Bluewater in Kent last week, and has stopped trading at its other two stores in Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, three years after launching in the UK.
The business confirmed it will also halt its British ecommerce platform, and will reroute UK customers to its US website for purchases.
“American Eagle was represented in strong locations, so footfall or access to the brand was not the issue,” said one senior director at a UK property agency.
“The problem was it just didn’t differentiate its product enough – it’s known for its denim but the denim market is over-saturated as it is.”
The director of another property company agreed: “The market has become a lot tougher for brands without a clear and distinct point of difference in their offerings. When American Eagle came into the UK market, the trend back then was to take on big store locations, which is no longer necessarily the case. It’s survival of the fittest out there.”
Independent retail analyst Richard Hyman said the departure forms part of a wider trend of US retailers struggling to gain traction in the UK, despite launching with high visibility stores.
“While American Eagle’s UK offering was well executed and well disciplined, with attractive stores, it wasn’t different enough. The UK clothing market is the most oversupplied sector in an oversupplied industry, and any new entrant needs to offer something completely different. American Eagle is one of a large number of retailers populating the US market that offer casual, outdoorsy clothing, where the average British customer is much less outdoorsy.”
GlobalData lead retail analyst Honor Strachan agreed: “A number of US retailers are finding the UK market more challenging than anticipated. To counter this I think brands should adopt a different strategic approach – they should establish themselves through third parties and then through department store concessions, before a standalone flagship becomes an option.”
American Eagle debuted in the UK with the trio of store launches in November 2014.
In 2015 it emerged the retailer, which is based in Pittsburgh, had also planned to expand with around three to four store launches outside London and the south-east in 2016 and a similar amount this year.