One of the bright spots in the back-to-school selling season is newness driven by fabric innovation and appearing in staples such as denim and chinos. One of the best implementations is the new flex Denim X collection at American Eagle (AEO). The women’s flex denim collection debuted last year and the brand extended the line to mens for BTS 2015. This is a new take on the staple stretch denim that is designed more to keep its shape and hug the butt during movement than to cling tightly to the body. Think always-fitting/flattering looks rather than jeggings.

It has been reported that fewer promotions, leaner inventories and a focus on product development have helped American Eagle wean customers off constant promotion, increasing gross profit by 2.6% in Q1, led by the Denim X line. From a merchandising perspective, we see brands taking a page from athletic brands, investing in fabric technology to create exclusivity in product execution. The key will be to continually innovate and create demand through exclusive product that performs over time.

Our extended analysis of the digital implementations at American Eagle show marked improvement over its direct competitors in both overall ranking and page views. We especially appreciate the modern experience of the e-commerce site with its embedded video, simplified navigation, and clear product stories. We also observed store implementations extending the site creative to the stores, thereby creating a fully integrated product-focused experience.

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