We shopped at American Eagle and Urban Outfitters to see why one teen retailer is outperforming the other. The answer was clear.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The struggle has been real for retailers selling to teens and young adults. American Apparel and Aeropostale filed for bankruptcy in 2016 – Charlotte Russe wasn’t far behind.

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) and Urban Outfitters (URBN) have managed to stay afloat, but they aren’t entirely in the clear.

American Eagle reported a 6% increase in same-store sales for the first quarter of 2019, though shares of the company have dropped 22.2% in the past three months. Still, the fact remains that where other retailers have fallen behind, American Eagle has managed to soar and outperform its competitors.

Read more: We shopped at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie to see which store was superior and why their parent company is struggling. What we saw made everything clear.

Shares of Urban Outfitters – a branch of parent brand URBN – have dropped nearly 15.9% in the last three months.

Both young adult retailers have their draws, but a visit to each reveals why American Eagle is consistently outperforming Urban Outfitters and the rest of its competitors. Urban Outfitters was messy and filled with trash across the store, while American Eagle’s showroom was neatly organized. The body-positive marketing campaign of Aerie also explained why American Eagle is doing so well.

Here’s what else we saw:


We stopped by the American Eagle store on Broadway in New York City.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The store’s interior was nothing flashy — and that worked really well. The warm lighting and muted colors of the display tables created a relaxed and casual atmosphere.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The organization and cleanliness in the store was off the charts. This massive jeans display was perfectly arranged by size and color — and not one pair was even slightly out of place.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Speaking of jeans, American Eagle had it all. Shoppers could choose from 146 different washes, 13 types of fits, and 39 sizes.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

And if none of those styles were inspiring, the American Eagle Maker’s Station allowed customers to create their own one-of-a-kind jeans.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There were dozens of different fabric patches to choose from.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Upstairs, we found more clothing in the women’s section. There were a lot of prints and flowy skirts in time for summer …

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… and we were completely obsessed with all of them.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Overall, the prices were more than reasonable — this breezy pink skirt was going for $39.95.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We made our way to the Aerie section across the room, where we found a large selection of underwear and athleisure.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There was a 40% off sale for the entire Aerie collection when we were there — plus all underwear was 10 for $30.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Aerie made a name for itself by featuring models of all shapes and sizes in its marketing and social media campaigns. There were signs advertising this throughout the store.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

This commitment to visibility of all women has helped the brand grow and gain a leg-up over competitors like Victoria’s Secret.

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Facebook/Aerie

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In addition to underwear, we also found this colorful selection of tank tops.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There were a few signs advertising rewards for American Eagle and Aerie.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We went back downstairs to check out the rest of the store and stumbled upon these neatly arranged t-shirts on sale for an unbeatable $10.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

American Eagle partnered with resale brand Urban Necessities and opened a pop-up in the store to sell special edition items from Nike, Adidas, and Supreme.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The pop-up section was hip, trendy, and super fun to walk through. The walls were decorated with marker scribbles — we also found a Supreme Pinball machine.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The shoe selection here was enormous.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Some were more expensive than others. These glass-enclosed Nikes were going for $11,000 — and those weren’t even the most expensive shoes available.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

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There was also a station to make your own graphic tees — and we got to see the machine in action.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

American Eagle was a pleasure to visit. With the option to design our own jeans and graphic tees, the DIY part of us was satisfied — the organized and extensive merchandise in the store only added to the experience.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We also visited Urban Outfitters.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

With its neon lights and unpainted concrete columns, the store’s design was more overstated than American Eagle’s.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There were interesting abstract murals throughout the store on different walls. But on the whole, the store looked like it was meant to appear as if it was in the middle of construction.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

In some places, that theme worked. In others, there was actual renovation work happening. We saw a whole wall being painted before our eyes …

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… as well as a shelf being constructed in the middle of the sale section, which was highly distracting.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

In general, the store was filled with out-of-place items and trash where it should not have been.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Boxes like these could easily be found in various sections across the store.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

And in some places, it was impossible to ignore.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The underwear section had nothing on Aerie’s vast selection at American Eagle. The display at Urban Outfitters was cheap, but it wasn’t nearly as pretty to look at.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Like American Eagle, Urban Outfitters offered a touch of the vintage — this photo booth was an interesting thematic touch.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There was also a nice selection of shoes, though it was not nearly as overwhelming as the selection in the Urban Necessities pop-up.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We found a bunch of graphic tees …

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… as well as hoodies. All of the prices were relatively reasonable.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

That is, except for this chiffon dress that was going for $350.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There was a sizable home goods section, something we didn’t find at American Eagle.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

But still, every turn held another mess.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The unorganized state of the store was in sharp contrast to the high level of organization at American Eagle.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Our shopping experience made it clear why American Eagle is dominating its retail sector. From organization, to merchandise, to marketing, American Eagle has found a way to stay ahead. Urban Outfitters, better luck next time.

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider