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YouTube star Bethany Mota may be Aéropostale’s only hope

Now that you’ve left middle school, you’ve probably left behind your Aéropostale wardrobe — the bad news for the retail clothing chain is that the same applies to today’s middle schoolers. For 13 straight sales quarters now, the once popular clothing brand has lost money. Most recently, sales were down 6.7 percent when compared to the same time last year, and net sales have plummeted over 16 percent. On Friday, following the announcement of this bad news, shares took a 50 percent hit. But now, Aéropostale is hoping to resuscitate itself by way of YouTube star Bethany Mota.

The online personality designed her own collection for Aéropostale back in 2014, which was heralded as a great move for the brand, as CNBC pointed out at the time: “Mota has been successful precisely where Aeropostale has fallen short: drawing a large and growing audience that appreciates her fashion advice.”

And now, as Aéropostale “remains that it is firmly out of favor with the fickle younger consumer,” according to Conlumino analyst Håkon Helgesen, the company’s dependence on Mota is more pronounced than ever. Truly, this 20-year-old may have an entire 40-plus-year-old company resting on her shoulders.

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As Business Insider points out, Mota boasts a truly impressive résumé. She has around 5.5 million Instagram followers and nearly 10 million YouTube followers. Her personal YouTube channel, “Bethany’s Life,” has over 2 million followers, and in 2014, she made an appearance on Dancing With The Stars

But despite this stardom, Mota hasn’t seemed to be able to work her magic on Aéro. “Indeed, [Aéropostale] has now become a brand that gets overlooked on many shopping trips simply because its range does not resonate and has little relevance,” Helgesen says. “While consumer tastes have shifted, Aero has steadfastly clung to a range that looks more at home in the mid-2000s than 2016, and a store environment that all too often resembles a yard sale.” Ouch.

So just how much influence can a YouTube star really have on a dying brand? Aéropostale may just be the perfect case study to find out.