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American Eagle is destroying Abercrombie and Urban Outfitters, and here’s why

American Eagle is destroying Abercrombie and Urban Outfitters, and here’s why
[Photo: courtesy of American Eagle]

Yesterday, American Eagle Outfitters came out with its quarterly earnings, and exceeded analyst expectations on sales. And according to new data shared with Fast Company by analytics firm Sprout Social, both American Eagle and its sister brand Aerie have an overwhelmingly positive sentiment on social media, at 83% and 68% respectively.

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The positive sentiment found Sprout’s data points to American Eagle’s commitment to celebrating diversity, as a PR rep for the firm noted in an email. While the brand has been using ethnically diverse models for some time, its most recent #aerieREAL campaign incorporated models with a range of disabilities. All of this has made the brand more relatable to the teens and young adults that it serves, and this has been paying off for their bottom line.


Related: Inside Abercrombie’s plan to win over Gen Z, where everyone’s a cool kid


But another part of the story is that American Eagle’s competitors, like Abercrombie and Fitch, and Urban Outfitters, have been doing poorly over the last few years. Abercrombie’s oversexed, cool-kid aesthetic has not resonated with Gen Z, and so the brand is working on changing its entire identity to be friendlier and more inclusive. This change has generally been yielding positive results, but the company is still falling short of investor expectations. Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters’ offbeat hipster vibe has also been landing flat with today’s young people, resulting in declining sales.


Related: How gun control and gay rights became the key to selling jeans


As I describe in a story from earlier this year, American Eagle has been trying to understand the behavior and worldview of young people for decades now. All of this research–from focus groups, customer surveys, and in-store observations–has paid off, allowing the brand to reflect the values of today’s young people. American Eagle has also boldly stepped into political territory, taking stances in favor of gun control and LGBTQ rights. All that seems to be resonating with Gen Z, which is shaping up to be a very politically engaged bunch.

This post has been updated to reflect additional information from Sprout Social’s representative.

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