By  on January 22, 2014

Robert Hanson's two-year tenure as chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. has ended.The Pittsburgh-based teen retailer said that Jay Schottenstein, chairman, will serve as interim ceo while a search for a permanent successor is initiated.Roger Markfield, vice chairman and executive creative director of the company, has agreed to postpone his retirement, scheduled for the end of this month, and continue to serve in his current capacity. This is the second postponement of retirement for Markfield, 71, who returned to the company on a full-time basis in his current capacity five years ago when Hanson’s predecessor as ceo, Jim O’Donnell, brought him back during a period of earnings and same-store sales declines not unlike those the retailer has recently experienced.Hanson joined the company as ceo and a director in January 2012 after serving as global president of the Levi’s brand for Levi Strauss & Co. and earlier as president of the brand’s North American operations.“On behalf of the board of directors, I want to thank Robert for his contributions during his tenure and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Schottenstein said. “I look forward to working closely with Roger and our talented team to capitalize on the significant potential of our brands and to position the company for growth and long-term success.”Although AEO has struggled along with other retailers in the highly promotional teen apparel sector in recent quarters, many had viewed it as weathering the current storm reasonably well. The company said it was not revising the fourth-quarter forecast provided on Jan. 9, when it said earnings for the period would be at the “bottom end” of previous earnings per share guidance of between 26 and 30 cents a diluted share, excluding one-time charges. Net revenues in the nine weeks ended Jan. 4 declined 2 percent to $882 million and comparable sales declined 7 percent.In the first nine months of the current year, net income fell 47.2 percent, to $72.5 million, or 38 cents a diluted share, while revenues declined 4 percent to $2.26 billion. Year-to-date comps fell 6 percent, with American Eagle down 6 percent, aerie down 1 percent and AEO Direct ahead 17 percent. The company operates more than 1,000 units in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China and Hong Kong and ships to 81 countries via its Web sites. Schottenstein, 59, was ceo of the company for 10 years beginning in 1992 and has served as chairman since that time. He moved from nonexecutive chairman to executive chairman in 2012, upon Hanson’s arrival.Markfield, who joined AEO in 1993, has been a director since 1999. The former Macy’s Inc. and Gap Inc. merchandising executive has served as AEO’s co-ceo and, upon his arrival in 1995, president and chief merchandising officer.Shares of the company declined 2.1 percent to $14.31 in New York Stock Exchange trading Wednesday and fell an additional 3.9 percent, to $13.75, as after-hours trading kicked off and AEO announced Hanson’s departure.During his tenure, Hanson had moved to globalize AEO’s operations, through freestanding stores as well as licensing agreements, and sought ways to differentiate it from a pack of teen retailers — including the other members of the so-called Three A’s, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Aéropostale Inc. — who’ve been losing market share to fast-fashion retailers and resurgent department stores.The company last month named Chad Kessler, formerly of Urban Outfitters, chief merchandising and design officer of the American Eagle brand, reporting to Hanson.

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