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By
Reuters
Published
Nov 7, 2013
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Abercrombie promises more sizes for women

By
Reuters
Published
Nov 7, 2013

Struggling fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch said it would expand its women's tops collection, offer larger sizes and more colours, and start selling shoes, in a bid to win back teen customers who have turned to trendier labels.

A&F shares fell as much as 13.6 percent to $33.58 on Wednesday after the company reported a seventh quarterly fall in same-store sales in a row and warned of a tough holiday season.

Analysts and investors have been looking for a new strategy from the company as its shares lost around a fifth of their value this year until Tuesday's close.

A look from Abercrombie & Fitch

"We recognize that our businesses have been and will continue to be disrupted by both fast fashion and pure play e-commerce competitors," said Leslee Herro, A&F's head of planning and allocation, at an analyst briefing on Wednesday.

She said the company will aggressively increase stocking women's tops to compete against such rivals.

"While the company is playing good defence by cutting expenses, this does little to revitalize what we believe is a stale brand," Stifel Research analyst Richard Jaffe said in a note published before the call.

Fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Forever 21s, which quickly and cheaply turn around the latest fashion trends, have been taking market share from more traditional teen retailers such as A&F that has stuck with more basic styles built around their brand name.

Abercrombie has had to fall back on heavy discounting and sacrifice margins in the holiday season as it looks to get rid of excess inventory, company executives said at the briefing.

The company said on Wednesday that it expects margins to recover next year, when it will look to slowly come out of promotions and stock more styles in smaller amounts rather than large amounts of fewer lines.

A&F aims to have a wider range of clothes in place by spring and have shoes and other accessories in place by the next summer's "back-to-school" season.

Among the more surprising changes planned for next year is the company's decision to offer women's clothing in larger sizes by next spring.

Chief Executive Mike Jeffries has stirred controversy in the past by suggesting the company's clothes were made for "cool" and "attractive" kids and not for "fat" people.

The company does not currently offer sizes for women above large.

Company executives also told analysts that the retailer plans to increase average selling prices in the mid-single digit range from 2014.

Eric Beder of Brean Capital said the company's problems pointed to wider issues that would pressure the entire teen sector. Shares of Abercrombie's fellow 'A' teen retailers also tumbled Wednesday.

Aeropostale shares were down 8 percent on the New York Stock Exchange, while American Eagle Outfitters fell 3 percent.

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