Aeropostale comes to T&T with first store in C3
Aeropostale will open its first store in Trinidad and Tobago at the C3 Center in San Fernando.
The American Apparel Brand is just the latest addition to Omar Hadeed’s collection of franchises which so far includes Skechers, Bath and Body Works, Aldo, Domino’s and Pita Pit.
The newest acquisition continues Hadeed’s vision of re-establishing T&T as a shopping destination for people within the Caribbean.
“It has always been my vision to attract customers from the region. While most persons in the Caribbean travel abroad to do their shopping, they have in recent times found it more difficult due to visa restrictions, increasing expenses and logistical delays, so why not offer them the opportunity to shop in Trinidad?
"We have such great nightlife, fantastic restaurants, amazing hotels, and the people are all friendly, not to mention our transportation system, which is still one of the most efficient in the region. So the opportunity is there for us to diversify our economy to one that is tourism based via what we have to offer. We don’t have the white sands and turquoise waters like some of our counterparts, so why not try to perfect what we have to compete in order to attract the wider region” he told Loop.
Hadeed reinforced the purpose for his vision with a story about meeting two customers from Antigua the day before he recently opened Bath and Body Works, who said they came to Trinidad specifically for the opening because it was their favourite brand.
“Aeropostale is another product added to the collection and another brand that contributes to this vision . Our eventual aim is to have such a diverse portfolio that warrants people visiting Trinidad with the sole purpose of shopping. We are, in essence, becoming a destination within the Caribbean to shop for your favourite stores more affordably than other major cities, as its easier to reach here, less expensive to stay, and customers would feel a sense of pride and comfort to know that they are shopping in the Caribbean,” he said.
Hadeed explained that he chose Aeropostale as his next franchise based on research which indicated that the brand was very popular within the Trinidad market.
“We have done months of market analysis and research which showed that Aeropostale has a very strong brand awareness amongst teens and young adults as it offers a great price point, and is evolving to meet changing consumer habits which is something we believe can be scaled across Trinidad,” he said.
The brand’s first Caribbean store will be designed to give customers the experience they have come to expect from his stores, said Hadeed.
“We are giving customers an experience to get them excited. It’s all about the aesthetics, the service and the overall quality in which we aim to always provide to our customers. We are now competing with a generation that sits at home on their smartphones and have the ability to buy anything in the world from the touch of a button. We live in a time where customers have access to everything at any time and we are trying to do our part to engage them in every way possible to direct their shopping habits to us. We want to continue to impress and continue to perfect our industry “ he said.
Asked about the usual criticism that these foreign franchises means more foreign exchange leaving our shores, Hadeed said that online shopping has become the largest drain on foreign exchange leaving our country.
"Every time we purchase an item on our credit card online, this uses foreign exchange. Some shoppers believe that because they pay off their credit cards in local currency, this is not the case, but the bank, of course, has to absorb the forex charge.
“We use the data available to us to analyse what customers are purchasing online and we bring to market these brands which in turn provide opportunities to many others. By converting these online purchases of popular brands via our local shops, we ensure that we are sourcing these goods at a lower price point which in turn actually reduces the forex needs of our banking institutions. Our company now employees more than 400 persons and there is a significant benefit to countless others, including contractors to build out these locations, signage companies to print artwork for these stores, lighting, flooring, and computing systems to be installed, along with so many other supply chain needs . We are contributing significantly to the local infrastructure.” he countered.
While other businessmen complain about the toll online shopping has had on the local retail business, Hadeed has decided to tackle the challenge head on by bringing high profile brands to T&T, and while many are sceptical about the markups which is the chief reason people prefer online shopping, he is challenging anyone to prove his prices are higher.
“Our stance right now is that all of our prices are comparative to online. In some cases we are 10 to 15 percent cheaper and I would ask anyone to challenge me on that. When we price our goods, we check it against those online before US taxes are even added to the shopping cart, not to mention shipping cost and local tariffs.”
“To be competitive in today’s retail market, you have to be innovative and it’s all about attention to detail . We would have never been able to compete with the US market when the goods and services provided to us was at a more expensive price, but because of globalisation and the internet, the supply chain prices have dropped. We don’t buy through distributors anymore, we buy direct. Our main task is trying to combat the disruption through cost, experience, and service ” he explained.
He said thanks to the success of the brands he has brought to the Caribbean, he has opened doors for other retailers to engage with other international brands to further solidify T&T as a serious shopping destination.
Aeropostale will open at the C3 Center on December 6.
This story has been updated to reflect that Aeropostale will now be opening on Friday 6 December, not on Friday 29 November as previously reported.