Apparel group American Eagle Outfitters is to enter the Chinese market with the opening of the company’s first stores in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Under an exclusive franchise agreement announced with retail operator Dickson Concepts (International), the US company will open a series of stores over the next several years.

The first three outlets, scheduled to open in early 2011, are earmarked for Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

The stores will offer the full AE seasonal assortments, as well as intimates and dormwear lines from Aerie by American Eagle.

“There is significant appetite for the American Eagle Outfitters brand internationally,” said Jim O’Donnell, American Eagle CEO.

“Dickson’s tremendous experience with some of the most prestigious and valuable brands in the world makes them the ideal partner for this region.”

Dickson Poon, group executive chairman of Dickson Concepts, added: “There is a burgeoning demand for trendy young fashion in Asia, and I am very confident that American Eagle Outfitters will achieve the same level of phenomenal success in Asia as in its home market of North America.”

American Eagle will provide merchandising and marketing input for the new stores, while Dickson Concepts will handle all operational functions.

The move follows American Eagle’s first foray into the Middle East in March, with the opening of stores in Dubai and Kuwait.