American Eagle Outfitters Drives Long-Term Profits With Project LASER

  • May 20, 2013 at 5:00 AM EDT
  • By Alicia Esposito
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Retailers across verticals are restructuring marketing, inventory and other key processes to help keep pace with consumers’ demanding, multichannel shopping behaviors.  

American Eagle Outfitters turned to JDA Software to help transition and fortify two brands — American Eagle and Aerie. These brands are sold in more than 1,000 North American stores and ship to 81 countries via international e-Commerce.

Through a partnership with JDA Strategic Services, the consulting branch of JDA Software, American Eagle Outfitters is creating more localized assortments, and refined and optimized segmentation and merchandising strategies. The alliance also has reduced daily report generation significantly.

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American Eagle Outfitters is leveraging the JDA Change Leadership (JCL) Methodology to support aggressive international growth plans and drive success. During the May 2013 JDA FOCUS conference in Orlando, Fla., MaryBeth Harris and Christy Bittner, senior managers of inventory planning at American Eagle Outfitters, shared insights about the process.

The JDA Strategic Services suite was designed to offer retailers customized support to address the information, process and resource needs of their unique businesses. Services include strategic assessment; end-to-end design; readiness assessment; business diagnostic; change leadership; optimization services; and impact assessment.

Project LASER Supports Next Growth Stage

Together, American Eagle Outfitters and JDA applied the JCL Methodology to develop Project LASER: “Localized Assortment Strategies to Enhance Revenue.”  The initiative, which launched the beginning of May 2013, according to Harris, was created to ensure growth and encourage more efficient processes across the organization.

“We’re continuing to grow internationally, so we need a plan to fortify brands and make sure we have the tools and capabilities in place to succeed and drive long-term profit,” Harris said. Project LASER, she added, represents the next stage in growth that is driven by “greater efficiency and effectiveness across all functional areas.”

To facilitate business transformation and improve efficiency, American Eagle Outfitters has implemented advanced merchandise and assortment planning solutions, as well as customer segmentation tools. In addition, the retailer is working towards improving business intelligence and reporting already utilized by team members.

Project LASER impacts approximately 300 full-time employees across several functions and departments at American Eagle Outfitters. The initiative has sparked “huge changes in our tools, internal systems and processes,” Harris stated.

For example, staff members previously entered data manually into Excel and generated hundreds of daily reports, most of which contained duplicate information. “ JDA helped us narrow these reports from 500 a day,” Harris said, “to just 35.”

The Importance Of Education

JDA has helped American Eagle Outfitters increase employee awareness of the new change management philosophy by rolling out a series of programs and campaigns focused on education and enablement. Initially, the retailer released a newsletter to announce Project LASER and how it will impact the company. 

Initially, the merchant released a newsletter announcing Project LASER, “but all of our employees get information from their iPhones, so the newsletters quickly were thrown into recycling bins,” Harris stated. “The JDA strategic team came in and helped us determine how to speak to employees in a more appropriate way.”

The new change management process kicked off near corporate headquarters, in a movie theater — complete with drinks and popcorn — to get employees excited about Project LASER. American Eagle Outfitters created a fun yet educational environment for employees as they watched a series of video presentations regarding how the initiative will impact the business. American Eagle Outfitters consistently meets face-to-face with employees, based on titles and departments, to communicate the new strategies. 

A web-based portal, called the Project LASER Knowledge Center also helps “support the direct access and storage of key communications, learning tools and event information for the entire American Eagle Outfitters team,” Bittner noted. These resources help to create a “stronger connection between the project and the business community.”

Training documents, frequently asked questions, a calendar of training events, as well as a variety of quizzes are offered in the knowledge center, which keeps employees up-to-date on merchandising and assortment best practices. As a result, all team members continue to be educated and informed on how Project LASER is progressing, and how they can keep pace effectively.

Training resources are tied to a loyalty program, so employees can earn points if they participate in discussions and complete quizzes, Bittner reported. “Employees are grouped into teams, and the ones with the most points get a comp day off,” she explained. “It’s a fun way to keep people engaged in Project LASER, and encourages them to participate in training processes, which helps drive success.”

Regular employee surveys allow the executive team to “keep a pulse on what’s happening in the business,” Bittner said. This will empower the company to determine the most effective mediums and tactics to educate and enable employees on merchandising and assortment planning best practices.

As Project LASER evolves to support the retailer’s aggressive growth plans, Harris indicated, American Eagle Outfitters now is better poised to keep pace in today’s demanding, multichannel environment. 

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