WARRENDALE, PA-Based on the success of three test standalone Aerie by American Eagle units, Jim O’Donnell, CEO of parent American Eagle Outfitters Inc., says, “if new stores continue to perform as well as the test stores, Aerie could be a 350-plus store chain by 2012.” There will be “at least 15 new Aerie units this year,” he added during a conference call.

The sub-brand, featuring underwear for teens, was launched in September 2006. A line of personal care products and a new dorm-wear line will be added to the aerie merchandise mix this year.

The Martin + Osa sub-brand, which opened with five units in late 2006 and is targeted to people between the ages of 25 and 40 or older, will gain 12 units this year. In addition, it will see “substantial changes to its assortment this fall,” O’Donnell said.

The Martin + Osa women’s collections “will be less outdoorsy and more feminine,” he said. He called both new sub-brands “key growth vehicles” for the locally based retailer and also, without elaborating, said the company “is exploring new concepts.”

The flagship American Eagle units will grow by between 45 and 50 new units this year, primarily in lifestyle centers. Another approximately 45 are scheduled for remodels. In all, the company plans to expand total square footage by 10% in 2007.

Denim jeans remain a mainstay, and Susan McGalla, president and chief merchandising officer of the AE brand, described knits and accessories as “growth opportunities. While men’s knits is an extremely strong category,” she said, “we’ve made changes in merchandising and have put additional resources into women’s knits.” Regarding accessories, she added, “we want to be to our customers in accessories what we are for them in sportswear.”

The company’s full-year and fourth-quarter 2006 earnings rose 40% and 35%, respectively. Total sales for the 14 weeks ended this Feb. 3, were $973.4 million, up 27% compared with the 13-week period ended Jan. 28, 2006. Comp store sales were up 14% for the quarter.

Total sales for the 53 weeks ended this Feb. 3 rose 20% to nearly $2.8 billion, compared with just more than $2.3 billion for the 52-week period ended Feb. 4, 2006. On that basis, comp stores sales increased 12% for the year. O’Donnell said this represented “our third consecutive year of positive comparable store sales growth and record operating margins.”

Shares of AEOS on the Nasdaq closed at $28.97 a share, down nearly 2.9% for the day. This compares with a 52-week high of $34.80 a share and a 52-week low of $16.57 a share.

This morning, the company begins trading on the NYSE under the symbol AEO. In announcing the clearing of the NYSE listing application on Feb. 6, O’Donnell called the transfer “a milestone, (that) highlights the outstanding growth and profitability we have experienced over the past several years.” American Eagle Outfitters currently operates approximately 834 stores in 50 states and Puerto Rico and 72 AE units in Canada along with the ae.com website.

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