Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries, who steered the teen retailer since 1992 and at times generated headlines for his controversial statements, has retired from his position effective immediately.
Jeffries has retired from his CEO post and as a member of the board of directors, Abercrombie said. In a statement, Jeffries said he believed now “was the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development.” A successor hasn’t yet been named, and Abercrombie (ANF) said it was looking at both internal and external candidates.
The change at the top of Abercrombie comes as the teen retailer has faced pressure from fast-fashion chains such as Forever 21 and H&M. Abercrombie, as well as its peers American Eagle (AEO) and Aeropostale (ARO), have found themselves out of favor and out of style with the sale of logo-adorned shirts and other apparel. As a result, Abercrombie has pivoted to retain its footing by going after more grown-up, affluent shoppers, partly by moving to lessen the use of its logos in the U.S. and expand the variety of styles in stock.
But those moves may have come a bit too late for Jeffries to continue to steer the retailer. Abercrombie, which had already stripped Jeffries of his chairman title early in 2014, has reported tumbling sales in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, net sales slid 12% in the U.S. and markets abroad in the most recent quarter. Comparable sales, a key metric for retailers, has dropped for seven consecutive quarters in the U.S. and abroad.
And analysts have said the retailer is in a tight spot, as it wants to be more fashionable and resonate with current style trends (which command lower price points), but also hopes to maintain its historically high margins by selling consumers on the quality of its garments.
Jeffries was known for his colorful statements that didn’t always resonate with the public. In an interview with Salon in 2006, he said: “We want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” The comments didn’t generate a lot of controversy at the time, but were resurfaced when Abercrombie’s sales trends began to lose traction. He apologized for those comments in 2013, but still lost his chairman duties several months later.