American retailers invade Pen Centre

The back to school shopping season is a critical time of year for clothing retailers. But with a slowing economy and popular American chains like Old Navy and American Eagle Outfitters moving into Canadian malls such as St. Catharines’ Pen Centre, some stores are experiencing a decline in sales compared to previous years. We got hurt pretty bad,” said Joe Cebulski, manager of Campus Crew at the Pen Centre. Campus Crew is an Ontario based retail store, established in 1988.

Cebulski reported his store’s sales down approximately 20 per cent for the back to school season. Cebulski suspects his lost clientele was checking out the new American Eagle Outfitters, a Pennsylvania based company, which moved into the Pen during mid August.

“It’s new, so that’s where they [consumers] are going to go,” Cebulski said. “There was nothing we could really do about it.”

According to American Eagle Outfitter manager Wendy Freeman, business has been “great” so far and sales have been as good, if not better than expected.

Since May of this year, 44 American Eagle stores have opened in Canada, with that number growing to 48 by the end of this September, according to Freeman.

Old Navy, a division of American retail chain Gap Inc., is another recent immigrant to Canada and the Pen Centre. Old Navy manager, Kristy, who refused to give her last name, said sales have been “excellent” since the store opened up in the Pen Centre nearly two weeks ago.

“We’ve had a lot of customers with positive responses,” she said.

Kristy expects that Old Navy will do very well in the mall since there is no other store that can compare to Old Navy. She declared Old Navy offers fun, fashion and value and that there was no other store like Old Navy.

Cebulski is certain that Campus Crew’s numbers will go up again once shoppers get acquainted with the new stores.

“They’ll be busy for a while, but the quality is not the greatest at Old Navy,” he stated.

Cebulski claims he’s not resentful toward the recent invasion of Old Navy or American Eagle Outfitters.

“The added competition is a good thing. It’s what people want,” he said. He predicts the addition of the chains will bring more people into the area since there will be more stores for consumers to enjoy.

Cebulski thinks everyone is “taking a hit” due to the recent addition of the popular American chains. “There’s nothing we could do about it,” he said. “Everyone wants to check out the new stores.”

Roots Canada Ltd. has not felt the pinch that Campus Crew has during the usual back to school rush. K. Lee, Roots manager at the Pen Centre, reported an increase in sales over the back to school shopping season.

“I think the new stores will benefit everyone by increasing traffic in the mall,” Lee said.

Lee does not feel the American stores will be a threat to Roots. “We have our Canadian quality behind us,” she claimed.

Cebulski believes their clothing styles will help win back and maintain their customer base as well, but a report on Business Week online by Amy Tsao warned of “growing concerns that retailers have too much of the same merchandise on the racks.”

The article went on to say that teens and preteens have become more fashion conscious than ever and that September sales could show increases as teens wait and see what their peers are wearing.

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