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AEO says holiday shoppers, online growth helped boost 4Q sales

| Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, 12:15 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Customers look at merchandise in the American Eagle Outfitters store in the South Side.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. said holiday shopping and online growth boosted fourth-quarter sales, underscoring a turnaround at the South Side-based teen apparel retailer.

The company has steadily improved its performance over the last year at American Eagle apparel stores and Aerie lingerie shops. The sales growth stands out against weak results from other retailers, including Macy's and Gap.

American Eagle Outfitters said it recorded a 4 percent increase in sales during the fourth quarter at stores open at least a year, compared with the same period a year earlier. The quarter included the important holiday shopping season.

Results for stores open at least a year are a key metric for retailers because they don't count sales generated from opening new stores.

“Despite a very challenging macro-environment, we had a solid holiday season,” CEO Jay Schottenstein wrote in a statement. “The online business was particularly strong.”

The holiday shopping season was mixed for other clothing retailers.

Department store operator Macy's this week said its sales slumped 5.2 percent at stores open at least a year in November and December. Gap reported a 5 percent drop in revenue at its namesake, Old Navy and Banana Republic stores in December.

But J.C. Penney this week said its sales rose 3.9 percent during the holidays.

And research firm comScore said Friday that mobile shopping, which includes smartphones and tablets, jumped in the last two months of the year. Total online spending during November and December rose 13 percent to $69.08 billion, from $61.29 billion last year, slightly short of the 14 percent rise expected by comScore, based in Reston, Va.

“I believe that we've seen a paradigm shift in 2016, where the future of retail will increasingly be defined by consumers' behavior on mobile,” comScore chairman emeritus Gian Fulgoni said.

Even though American Eagle's holiday sales were up, they fell short of what analysts were expecting. Shares fell $2.64, or 16.6 percent, to $13.24.

The company will release fourth-quarter financial results March 2.

Alex Nixon is a Tribune-Reveiw staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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