Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) dropped 20% Tuesday after the teen apparel retailer reported its 14th straight drop in sales and said it no longer expects business to improve in the second half of the year—including the crucial holiday season.
Abercrombie, which operates 744 U.S. stores across its different brands, said it would also close 60 stores stateside, continuing years of shrinking its footprint. The retailer had 946 U.S. stores in 2012. Comparable sales fell a slightly worse-than-expected 4%. The company blamed fewer shoppers showing up at its flagship stores, including international visitors.
And that pain will continue: “Comparable sales [will] remain challenging through the second half of the year, with a disproportionate effect from flagship and tourist locations,” Abercrombie said.
There is some validity to the company’s claims: A strong U.S. dollar is hurting retailers including Abercrombie, Tiffany & Co (TIF), and Michael Kors (KORS) that have bet on large, flashy stores in gateway cities like New York, San Francisco, and Miami, to generate sales from international visitors. But Abercrombie is also finding it hard to get customers used to its no-logo look as it deals with weak mall traffic.
Nor has the chain gotten a bump from the travails of its rivals. Gap Inc. (GPS), like Abercrombie, is struggling to halt long sales declines. American Apparel filed for bankruptcy last year, and Aéropostale (ARO) faces the real prospect of liquidating soon.
It has been a particularly gruesome few years for apparel chains as customers shift spending to different categories, like home products. And when they do buy clothes, more are shopping at discount stores like TJX Cos’ (TJX) T.J. Maxx or at fast-fashion behemoths H&M and Zara.
Abercrombie has been remodeling its Hollister stores, hoping to bolster its biggest brand, but comparable sales fell back into negative territory in the second quarter, dipping 2%. (At the Abercrombie brand, they fell 7%.) The chain has also been hiring designers to renew its image in its new post-logo approach as it dials back the super-sexy marketing of past.
Abercrombie’s net loss increased to $13.1 million from $810,000 in the year-ago quarter. Net sales fell to $783.2 million from $817.8 million.