American Eagle Outfitters AEO
Q4 2011 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 03/07/2012

Operator: Greetings, and welcome to the American Eagle Outfitters Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Judy Meehan, Vice President of Investor Relations. Thank you. Ms. Meehan, you may begin.

Judy Meehan - IR: Good morning, everyone. Joining me today are Robert Hanson, Chief Executive Officer; Roger Markfield, Executive Creative Director; and Joan Hilson, Chief Financial Officer.

Before we begin today's call, I need to remind you that during this conference call, we will make certain forward-looking statements. These statements are based upon information that represents the Company's current expectations or beliefs. The results actually realized may differ materially from those expectations or beliefs based on risk factors included in our quarterly and annual reports filed with the SEC.

Now, I'll turn the call over to Robert for his opening remarks.

Robert L. Hanson - CEO: Thanks Judy, and good morning, everyone. It's great to be with you. I am very excited to be here and to have the opportunity to lead American Eagle Outfitters into its next growth chapter. I want to acknowledge Jim for the Company he has built with Roger and thank them for their support during this transition.

My first 30 days have been energizing and insightful. Simply put my reasons for joining AEO have been confirmed. We have a solid foundation in place with significant potential for improvement. In our current arsenal we have one of the strongest brands in the business and extensive and profitable store fleet, a well established e-commerce business, a leading infrastructure, and an excellent balance sheet.

As the cornerstone of our company The American Eagle brand is well positioned for the times. The brand has a strong customer value proposition, leading core businesses, and untapped growth potential in additional categories, channels, as well as international expansion opportunities. With this foundation in place, I see opportunities to leverage my 24 years of experience in apparel and global brand building to bring value to the Company. To drive improved performance, we need to continue innovating our product, customer experience, and elevating our capabilities.

I clearly recognize the challenges of the past several years. Our top line has been essentially flat and margin erosion has been significant. During the first few weeks I've been working with the team to evaluate our longer-term strategies to ensure we are positioned to deliver sustainable profitable growth, and this evaluation will continue over the next several months. In the meantime, our near-term priorities include driving a competitive top line, improving margins, and strengthening inventory productivity. Other areas that have my attention include plans to accelerate e-commerce, an evaluation of our store fleet, and leveraging our corporate infrastructure.

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