By  on August 30, 2005

NEW YORK — Due to diverging opinions over international growth, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said Robert S. Singer, president and chief operating officer, will leave the company, effective Wednesday.

Singer has been at the retailer for 15 months. A search for a replacement is under way.

Abercrombie chief executive officer Mike Jeffries said in a statement released after the close of the stock market Monday that Singer, who joined the retailer in May 2004, and the company had "a difference in approach to the timing and extent of our expansion into certain international markets."

"While we are solidifying our plans to expand into Canada and the United Kingdom, our entry into other foreign markets will be at a more deliberate pace," Jeffries said.

Singer's duties will be picked up by John Lough and Mike Kramer, who are executive vice president of logistics and store operations and chief financial officer of the company, respectively. Abercrombie said it retained executive search firm Egon Zehnder to find a president and chief operating officer.

"My time with Abercrombie & Fitch has been an extraordinary experience," Singer said in the statement. "I will miss the many wonderful and talented people here, and wish them the greatest future success."

Singer, 53, replaced Seth R. Johnson. Singer joined the retailer from Gucci Group, where he had been cfo for nine years. At Abercrombie, Singer was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and strategies to support the growth of its retail formats.

During Singer's time at the company, Abercrombie launched its newest concept, Ruehl, in September 2004. Recently, the company has been active in pursuing an international presence. In February, the retailer said it planned to open six stores in Canada. In May, the company said it established subsidiaries in Europe and Japan, where it plans to open stores in late 2006 or 2007.

Abercrombie has had an interest in ex-Gucci Group executives of late. Aside from Singer, the company hired Gucci Japan's former president, Toshiaki Tashiro, as director of its Japanese arm. And for the retailer's European expansion, Abercrombie hired two more ex-Gucci executives, Francesco Giannaccari and Luca Mavaro, as president and cfo, respectively, of its European subsidiary.Abercrombie also hired Tom Mendenhall as senior vice president and general manager from Gucci last year. Mendenhall had been worldwide merchandising director at Gucci.

The company's domestic operations have seen a shuffle among its top executives lately, as well. In April, its prior cfo, Susan J. Riley, resigned for family reasons after just over a year with the company. Kramer's appointment as the new cfo was in early July.

Meanwhile, the New Albany, Ohio-based company said its same-store sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 27 were up 24 percent compared with the prior year, made up of a 13 percent increase at adult Abercrombie & Fitch stores, a 56 percent surge at abercrombie kids' stores and a 29 percent increase at Hollister locations.

Total sales in the period were $287.4 million, up 36 percent.

Additionally, Abercrombie said it still expects to earn $3.10 to $3.30 a share in the full year on sales of about $2.7 billion, excluding one-time charges for Singer's severance package. Analysts are calling for a profit of $3.30 a share on sales of $2.64 billion.

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