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American Eagle urged to 'take time' with UK expansion

American Eagle could sign a deal for its fourth London property in a matter of months – but experts have warned it must expand slowly in the rest of the UK.

As revealed by Drapers this week, the 1,000-store business is poised to sign for stores in Westfield London, Westfield Stratford and Bluewater in Kent.

It is thought the two Westfield stores will be 10,000 sq ft apiece, while the Bluewater unit is thought to be 6,000 sq ft. It is hoping to have all three open by Christmas. Harper Dennis Hobbs is believed to have acted as agent on the deal, although the property business did not respond to calls.

Separately, Drapers understands the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based brand is in talks over opening a fourth store in central London, although a source indicated this was some months off being signed.

Experts described the chain as “a trendier Gap” or a “cheaper Hollister”, but warned it might struggle outside London.

A senior retailer said: “It’ll do fine [in London], but it will be limited. I don’t think it will be hugely successful in the rest of the country because there’s not enough to it. The way the brand is promoted is not sexy – it’s more practical.

“Most American brands don’t have the right cachet with UK consumers. There hasn’t been a launch like Abercrombie & Fitch for the last five years or so, and I don’t see American Eagle being that level.”

One industry expert said it should learn from brands such as Gilly Hicks, which is now exiting properties, or Forever 21, which is downsizing at the Birmingham Bullring amid a £66.5m loss largely caused by its property estate.

“It could work UK-wide, but it has to take its time. Everyone thinks that because the UK is small geographically, what sells in London sells in Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow, but there are massive regional differences,” he said.

“Many brands have fallen foul of thinking that their brand awareness is as strong in the regions as it is outside London.”  

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