Aeropostale has achieved this with a monopoly on styles that other shops have moved away from, but teens still want. Prices for Aeropostale's all-private-label merchandise are lower than competitors', attracting the 11-to-15-year-olds.
Mr. Clendenin, 39, oversees the chain's key strategy of promoting on-sale items in-store and adjusting pricing frequently. In addition to focus groups and its 50 test stores, the 522-unit chain shows potential designs twice a month to 10,000 of the half-million teens who frequent its Web site.
"It's such a great cross between preppy and surfer," says Candace Corlett, a principal at WSL Strategic Retail. "It's hit the message right in both trend and price."
This season's back-to-school campaign featured Mischa Barton of Fox's "The O.C.," a fashion icon to the young teens Aeropostale targets. These teens want to fit in with their peers with trend-right but not-too-trendy clothes.