The Eagle Has Landed - In Times Square

American Eagle Outfitters is the latest retail brand to open a flagship store in New York's Times Square. The clothing brand joins a Babel-like cacophony of branding in the neighborhood, around the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street.

For years, the region was a palimpsest where new retail properties went cheek and jowl with the old: The now-defunct Howard Johnson's, the porn palaces, flop houses, dance and audition studios and other reminders of a seedier, more theatrical time. (Apologies to members of Actor's Equity, which still has a building on 46th street above McDonald's).

These days, save for a few holdouts around 9th Avenue and the Port Authority, Times Square has ceased to exist, having been completely overrun by brand enterprises. Times Square now has a perpetual roster of Disney musicals, and a cornucopia of brand-experience stores, ranging from M&M's and Coppertone to ESPN, Hard Rock and Madam Tussaud's.

Add the towering super signs, digital wallscapes, and 24/7 news feeds on gigantic super-cooled video monitors, and you get a place that could have sprung from the mind of Philip K. Dick, minus the flying cars. The Naked Cowboy may actually be an android who dreams of electric sheep.



In any case, TS is a tough place for a brand to get noticed, as more flagships dock there these days than in 19th-century Liverpool. Note: this week, ESPN will use its store to announce a new partnership with Disney that may involve sporting versions of mermaids, talking lions, beauties and beasts.

American Eagle says its 25,000-square-foot store at 1551 Broadway, at 46th Street will feature four levels of shopping with distinct floors for AE denim, as well as "aerie," the company's intimates and dormwear brand. (I'm not sure what dormwear is, but I'm pretty sure it has to include pizza stains on the legs, pot seeds in the cuffs, and crumpled notes in the pockets asking Dad for money.)

Among other things, the AE store will add its own super-sign to the scene. The sign will be tied to a customer experience called "15 Seconds of Fame": With a purchase, customers will be invited to pose in a mini photo studio. Moments after, the customer's photo will be projected onto the 15,000 square feet of LED screens (25 stories high) outside the store.

The LED screens will feature content 18 hours per day. Thinking about that gives me a headache. I'd bum a Bayer aspirin, but I'm pretty sure I can get it at the Bayer Super Headache Experience store on 43rd.

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