At 30,000 square feet, our American Eagle Outfitters Times Square store is the largest in the fleet—and more than 40,000 customers walk through its doors every week. In July, we debuted a newly redesigned layout of our flagship store with an entire floor dedicated to AEO Jeans thanks to the hard work and creative vision of Brian H., Director International Brand Presentation; Michael S., Director Store Design; and Dean S., Vice President of Brand Presentation and Store Design. We spoke with Brian H. to learn more about what goes into redesigning a store and the inspiration behind the new look of our Times Square store.
Why was the Times Square store redesigned?
Walking through the store, we realized there was a lot of unused space we could utilize. When the Times Square store first opened, the Men’s Floor was in the cellar, but we later moved it to the first floor. After some time we realized that having the Men’s Floor in the cellar worked best, so we recently decided to move it back there. Once that space opened up on the first floor we decided to focus it on denim and give ourselves the opportunity to show off our breadth of fits and washes.
What is the process from design to execution? How long did it take?
We decided to redesign the store in June 2012, so it took about a year to concept, design and execute the idea. We started with architects out of San Francisco, who really helped us bring the vision to life.
What was your inspiration behind the new store design?
Mainly we took all of our cues from New York City. On the exposed brick within the store, we painted graphics on the walls to mimic how they used to paint old advertisements on exterior walls of buildings throughout the city. Even the scaffolding system that holds the denim wall is like the scaffolding you see on buildings in New York. We also used a lot of subway tile and concrete throughout the store.
As you walk from the redesigned Mens Floor to the AEO Jeans Floor (on the ground level), the staircase is like what you would see in a Soho building. The fitting rooms are made of cedar, like in a sauna or a closet, so it’s a really enhanced experience. From a sustainability aspect, all of the flooring, shelves and tables are made from reclaimed oak. We really were just enhancing the store design that was already there and creating a richer customer experience.
What new features does the AEO Jeans Floor on the ground level have?
When you come in the door, you immediately see a 27-foot denim bar that shows each AEO denim fit on a leg form. This way you can see how each fit looks on body, as well as the detailing and wash. This is especially helpful because you can see how the rise sits on the body more clearly, whether it is our Jegging or Hi-Rise Artist. You can find our favorite washes each season on this table as well. There are 900 pairs of jeans alone on this table.
From a digital aspect, we have a new digital fit guide. The concept around the fit guide was based on the Grand Central Station train schedule. The Womens fits flip from Mens like the schedule at the train terminal to keep the idea of New York alive. You even hear the clicking sound as they change!
You also redesigned the entire fitting room experience. What is it like?
We had the fitting rooms placed in a back corridor and we wanted to create a whole fitting room experience around denim, so we actually brought the fitting rooms forward into the center of the store. To modernize the fitting room experience we decided to create the fitting room as a lightbox [lit imagery] experience. The customer passes through an image of our Project Live Your Life cast members and can learn more about them.
We built a massive 32-foot denim wall in front of the fitting room that is double-sided and has every fit and wash of jean represented. While the customer is trying on jeans, the store associate is able to get the customer different fits, washes and sizes so they can continue the conversation and communicate more intimately with them to help find their perfect fit. Every Store Associate is trained on each denim fit with videos from the denim designers.
What other changes were seen in the redesign?
We actually raised the store front by three feet. Originally we didn’t have windows and you weren’t able to see inside the store from the street. We created a 16-foot wall out of indigo thread (over 3,000 pounds of thread were used), showing our fit guide on forms and celebrating the AEO Jeans Fit Shop.