American Apparel relaunched its UK website on 23 April 2018, two years since the clothing specialist shuttered UK stores after spiralling into administration. Although the brand’s new management is striving for a fresh viewpoint, it stocks extremely similar clothing to its previous collection and despite vowing to stay clear of its often controversial marketing campaigns, racy archive images are still being used on its UK website. This leads GlobalData to believe its overall offer has not adapted enough to appeal to a new generation of young fashion shoppers.
American Apparel before
The once iconic brand was a popular import from LA, selling high-priced ‘sweatshop free’ cotton basics. Before it closed the retailer boasted 13 stores across the UK and was the quintessentially cool brand of the late noughties. However, it made the fatal error of failing to evolve its basic collection to account for changing fashion trends and was therefore left behind when loyal American Apparel shoppers grew up and found more choice available at its competitors.
What’s more its lewd advertising campaigns, coupled with the tarnished reputation of founder Dov Charney after allegations of harassment, left shoppers uneasy with the brand’s moral stance despite marketing itself as an ethical retailer, contradicting the brand values American Apparel prided itself on.
American Apparel after
New management wants to address previous issues while maintaining its reputation for high quality basics. Firstly, it has attempted to learn from earlier mistakes, announcing plans to remove contentious advertising campaigns and focusing marketing around diversity, empowerment and inclusion. This is likely to resonate with millennial and Generation Z shoppers who are increasingly concerned about political and ethical issues. However, its UK website is still using archive images in online look books, suggesting not enough has changed to improve some consumers’ negative perception of the brand. It has also added fuller figured models to its campaign and is offering shoppers a chance to purchase larger sizes for the first time, appealing to the growing plus size population.
Secondly, it promises more accessible price points, while not sacrificing on quality. Products are cheaper as it has diversified its sourcing locations and is now selling goods made outside of the US (before all products were manufactured in LA). For some styles two identical products are offered, one ‘made in USA’ and one ‘globally made’, with the latter up to a third cheaper. In reality it seems unlikely that many shoppers will chose the more expensive options particularly as both styles promise to be ‘sweatshop’ free, indicating dual production may soon be scrapped if sales do not warrant it.
In general prices are noticeably lower than previously offered, for instance its iconic ‘disco pants’ currently retail for £62 versus £74 pre-administration. Although these prices are arguably more accessible, with its target demographic still young, shoppers may be unwilling to pay this much for basics, especially considering the rise in fast fashion online players: ASOS and boohoo.com, that offer similar products for less. Moreover, it does not have a UK distribution centre currently, meaning shipping is costly and standard delivery takes between 9–15 days, making its offer uncompetitive compared to other online pureplays.
Work needs to be done to ensure its offer appeals to Generation Z
With many original American Apparel shoppers now in their late twenties or early thirties, it must work hard to grow its appeal among Generation Z consumers, so it can once again become a go-to destination brand for younger shoppers. It has attempted to capture this audience by introducing the #AASelfie, where consumers can tag themselves on Instagram when they are wearing American Apparel clothing and also creating an online blog featuring influencers such as artists, designers and journalists. However, with the majority of styles on offer remaining unchanged since the mid-noughties it will need to do more to engage shoppers, particularly given the increasingly competitive landscape the retailer is now operating in. It must modernise its assortment to incorporate fast-fashion styles alongside classic pieces to attract younger shoppers and re-establish its trendy image.
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