AE won't have to fill that same requirement. I'd assume that even if MW did buy AE, they would probably be sold in a similar way that they are through JAB (meaning online) with only very select stores having them in stock.
At the end of the day, I think that if MW owns the company, then MW is simply the bank account the profits are going into. Most everything else would probably be business as usual.
Agreed. One more thing that is worth mentioning-look at the trajectory AE has followed since being taken over in 2008; before then, there was a lot more polished cobbler, dinky oxfords, no matching belts, and certainly a dearth of exotic cordovan colors. Change has been, if anything, kind to AE over its lifetime. I would argue that installing Grangaard has been the most valuable move to happen to AE in its history. But for the PE company buying AE, we might have not had the incredible stuff we see today. Secondly, I see no reason to believe that we will move production off shore. AE's China strategy is dependent on keeping production in America-without it, the Chinese would lose interest in the product and AE will lose out on an enormous market opportunity.
Looking at the totality of AE's offerings, they have a good amount of the low end of upper tier shoes pretty well covered; if anything, their most logical direction to increase growth in the shoe market is on their upper end, and I would not be surprised if we see an increased focus on that. As younger AE fans have an increasing income, AE would be smart to try to leverage the existing loyalty and goodwill it has with consumers to start making shoes on par with Alden, C&J, etc. I agree, that right now, AE's top end offerings cannot compete with these "better" brands' quality reputation, however, with a well capitalized company like MW behind them, AE might be better positioned to penetrate the high end market. I, for one, have been very satisfied with my AE calf shoes. As a result, I have ventured into AE's higher end cordovan offerings on more than one occassion. If AE made shoes that were finished as nice as Alden, C&J, etc. (AE would probably would need to up the stitches-per-inch, leather quality, and finishing), and my income rises, I would willingly and happily be willing to give AE a chance, and I'm a 28 year old lawyer. I see no reason why AE can't grow in the upper end while still dominating the entry-level high end footwear sector.
I never hide my admiration for Grangaard and think that whatever company buys AE would be wise to keep him on and raise his salary signficantly. The fact that he was able to increase market share in a decreasing household-wealth economy (far more dangerous than a decreasing household-income economy) speaks to his abilities to move a product.
Bottom line-either way, I think the future is bright for AE, and as long as they keep making good quality shoes, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and always be willing to try their newer offerings.
Ad astra, per aspera.