12/07/2014 11:42 EST | Updated 12/07/2014 12:59 EST

Aeropostale CEO Julian Geiger: Keeping Kids From Being Teased Is Our 'Brand Promise'

Bloomberg via Getty Images
A shopper walks by an Aeropostale Inc. store at the Santa Fe Mall in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Aeropostale, a specialty retailer of casual apparel for young women and men, last week rose the most in almost two years after private-equity firm Sycamore Partners took an 8 percent stake in the company. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The CEO of struggling fashion retailer Aeropostale says keeping teens from being teased at school is what the brand is all about.

The teenager today wants to fit in. They want to fit in by wearing things that make them feel safe,” Julian Geiger said on a conference call last week.

“If there’s a brand promise to Aéropostale, it’s that the teenager could wear our clothes, go to school and not be teased or made fun of the way they look.”

Geiger and other senior execs were announcing Aeropostale’s latest disappointing earnings -- which, for the latest quarter, amounted to an 11-per-cent decline in same-store sales. Aeropostale’s losses doubled in the latest quarter, to $52.3 million U.S., compared with $25.6 million in the same period a year earlier.

In context, Geiger’s comments seemed less like a desperate last-ditch attempt at marketing by a struggling company, and more like soul-searching by a retailer trying to understand how it lost its grip on its core market.

Geiger suggested teens who wear Aeropostale do so in order to gain a sense of belonging.

“I still believe that while they strive for individuality in many ways, at 14 to 17 years old, they still want to be accepted by their friends and peers and that there is still a uniform that they wear that makes them cool and fitting,” Geiger said.

But Aeropostale’s understanding of what’s “cool” seems to be slipping. Like its rivals Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, the retailer has struggled as teen consumers shift towards up-and-coming brands like H&M and Forever 21.

Teens’ consumption habits have shifted dramatically over the past five years, a fact Geiger acknowledged on the conference call. A recent study found that, for the first time, teens are now spending more money on food (that is, hanging out at Starbucks) than they are on clothing.

For Aeropostale, the immediate impact of that is clear: The retail chain plans to close 75 stores in the U.S. and Canada this quarter, bringing the total stores closed this year to 120. It’s looking at closing another 50 to 75 stores next year.

The chain currently has more than 990 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

(H/t: Buzzfeed and Business Insider)

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