Way To Shop

The Cobble Hill location of American Apparel.

The Cobble Hill location of American Apparel.

In this retailer’s nightmare of a sales season, just getting the consumer in the front door of a store is considered a success.

American Apparel takes this theory seriously, and it shows through the design of their stores. The retailer has four stores in Brooklyn, each with its own unique design. One store, in Park Slope, is housed in a former movie theater. It even has a marquis.

Though American Apparel has had an explosion of growth over the last few years, they started out rather timidly, according to merchandising Web site vmsd.com. But in the beginning, and as it remains now, it was just as much about selling the brand image as it was selling the actual clothes:

Three years ago, the manufacturer began dipping its big toe into retail. The first two stores were in untraditional retail neighborhoods – Echo Park in Los Angeles and near New York University. The locations gave the company time to experiment with how to sell directly to the people who would be wearing its wares rather than the screen printers who would decorate them and resell them for $30 on the streets or in boutiques.

“The early store concept was as much about introducing consumers to the T-shirts as it was showing them the quality of the garment,” says Jordan Parnass, principal of Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture (JPDA, Brooklyn, N.Y.), which designs all American Apparel stores. “We were appealing to them intellectually as well as in a really tactile way.”

AA really went after the youth demographic with the architecture and design of their stores as well as with the deign of their clothes. As a result of American Apparel’s deliberate marketing strategies, its customer base is extremely loyal and has been classified as cult-like, which is good news for the company. They once again reported an increase in their same-store sales in November.

And every little bit helps, as it appears the retail industry will be pummeled even harder in 2009.

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