By  on October 23, 2009

MILAN — Abercrombie & Fitch Co. will open its first store in Italy here next week as management looks to international markets for growth.

The 32,400-square-foot flagship is in a building designed by famed architect and artist Giò Ponti that was built in 1939. The central location puts the teen brand in a high traffic area, steps from the city’s cathedral and tony shopping street Via Montenapoleone.

The Milan store will be the first in the world to also carry the company’s Abercrombie junior line under the same roof. The Abercrombie & Fitch collections will be available over two floors, and more than 5,400 square feet will be dedicated to the younger brand.

To preserve the historic site, the company has maintained the building’s original facade, terraces and its precious marble from Musso, near Lake Como. The Milan store will be modeled after the New York, Los Angeles and London flagships.

“Italy greatly appreciates luxury and quality,” said a company spokesman.

Management is counting on growth in international markets to buoy results, which have struggled in recent quarters. In August, A&F reported a second-quarter loss of $26.7 million compared with earnings of $77.8 million in the same period a year ago. Revenue fell 23.3 percent to $648.5 million, marking the third straight quarter of double-digit sales declines.

Results were equally challenged for the first half, with a reported loss of $86 million compared with earnings of $139.9 million a year ago. Revenues fell 23.4 percent to $1.26 billion.

However, international markets are proving to be a bright spot for the retailer. International sales spiked 14.9 percent to $72.7 million during the second quarter and increased 5.2 percent to $131.6 million for the first half.

“The company believes that its international expansion will be a critical component of its future growth and is encouraged by its international performance to date,” said the company in its second quarter regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The Abercrombie & Fitch London flagship continues to perform well and U.K. Hollister mall-based stores opened at productivity levels significantly higher than the average U.S. Hollister store. The company anticipates an accelerated opening schedule for international mall-based Hollister stores in 2010 and 2011.”

A flagship will also open in Tokyo’s Ginza in December. There are 345 Abercrombie & Fitch stores around the world.

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