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Since Thomas Clendenin joined Aeropostale as senior VP-director of marketing in June 2003, after stints at Old Navy and ESPN, the company has outperformed other specialty chains in same-store comparables, sales per square foot and sales per outlet. Total net sales for the first half of 2004 are up nearly 50% from a year earlier to $362.5 million.

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.

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