Long the favorite jeans of American teens, American Eagle Outfitters is launching an exclusive collaboration with Maddie and Kenzie Ziegler for its back-to-school campaign. The new effort will include social-media takeovers, introducing teens to a 1990s vibe that ruled classrooms long before they were born.
New denim always tops teens’ back-to-school shopping lists, and American Eagle usually ranks No. 1. This year, it's out to expand that dominance, winning over Gen Z and Gen Alpha with a retro collection designed in partnership with the famed “Dance Mom” siblings, called AE x Maddie & Kenzie.
"The socially connected Ziegler sisters and their personal approach to styling represent a genuine connection to our customer community, providing the inspiration to incorporate AE jeans into any outfit, for any occasion," said Jennifer Foyle, president and executive creative director, in the company's announcement.
The sisters also headline the retailer's back-to-school campaign, modeling the collection on their social channels. Ads are also running on its site, in-store and on all owned social, including Instagram and TikTok. There's also an extensive out-of-home effort, including a 3D billboard in Times Square and advertising liveboards throughout New York.
It's hard to overstate AEO’s outsized presence in teens' closets. In Piper Sandler's closely-watched "Taking Stock with Teens" survey, it's the No. 2 apparel brand, topped only by Nike, beating Lululemon, H&M and Shein, and other teen specialty retailers. That list includes J. Crew's Madewell, Abercrombie & Fitch and its Hollister banner.
Of course, Levi's is also out to win those teens over, launching fresh back-to-school creative to further support its massive anniversary celebration for the 501 collection.
American Eagle's sales grew 2% to a record $1.1 billion in its most recent quarterly results. And while its Aerie stores continued to be the company's fastest-growing, American Eagle's results saw sequential improvement. However, sales declined 2% as teens (and their parents) continued to slow down spending.
But experts anticipate a boost to spending industrywide as the economic outlook settles. The National Retail Federation predicts that families with kids in elementary through high school will spend about $890 on back-to-school items this year, up $25 more from last year. And those with college-bound kids are forecast to raise their spending even more, at $1,367 per student, up from $1,200 in 2021.