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A&F Sets Ruehl for New Format

According to sources from outside Abercrombit & Fitch, the company has an intriguingly serious sounding name for its upcoming new division — Ruehl.

NEW YORK — Abercrombie & Fitch has an intriguingly serious sounding name for its upcoming new division — Ruehl.

Sources from outside the company disclosed the name to WWD. But A&F officials declined to comment on the name or any other aspect of the division, which is expected to appeal to both new customers and previously loyal A&F shoppers who might have tired of the core brand, or grown older and become interested in more sophisticated styles.

As reported, the first four test stores of the start-up chain will be launched in different parts of the country later this month, most likely a mix of urban and suburban locations, to measure reaction from a cross section of the population. A fifth door will open in early 2005.

There’s been speculation that Ruehl could compete with J. Crew and Banana Republic price points but with hipper looks that underprice contemporary brands. The concept has been kept tightly under wraps, but is generating enormous curiosity.

A&F also operates the Hollister chain, launched in 2000 and catering to 14- to 17-year-olds. Ruehl’s rollout is expected to follow the same pattern as the Hollister buildup, with testing for about a year and then accelerated openings. The other two divisions are Abercrombie & Fitch, targeting 18- to 22-year-olds, and abercrombie, targeting seven- to 14-year-olds. — David Moin