Investors clearly were not happy with first-quarter results from Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which missed Wall Street’s estimates for both earnings per share and revenues.
Investors punished the company’s stock by sending shares down 15.7 percent to close at $21.15 in Big Board trading.
For the three months ended April 30, the net loss narrowed to $39.6 million, or 59 cents a share, from a net loss of $63.2 million, or 91 cents, a year ago. On an adjusted basis, the loss was 53 cents a diluted share. Net sales fell 3.4 percent to $685.5 million from $709.4 million, with comparable-store sales down 4 percent. By brand, sales at Abercrombie fell 5 percent in the quarter, but were down only 2 percent at Hollister. Direct-to-consumer and omnichannel sales grew to 24 percent of total company net sales in the quarter.
Wall Street was expecting a loss of 51 cents a share on revenues of $710.3 million.
Arthur C. Martinez, executive chairman, said in a telephone interview that sales in the quarter were impacted by the retailer’s international sales and at its U.S. flagships and tourist stores. “Abercrombie has a higher penetration of a significant tourist business,” he said. The company tracks international credit card usage, and stores that have more than 50 percent of its sales from international credit card transactions are considered tourist sites, he explained.
Martinez said the company is still in the “very early days” of a plan for a new, updated Abercrombie concept store, although it has some idea of the message it ultimately wants the new concept to convey. “We hope to get a couple of them opened by the end of the year. We want to reflect a very strong statement behind the positioning of the brand,” he said.
The chairman said that the brand’s iconic, casual focus for consumers aged 20 years and up means there will be a “grown-up feeling in the store.”
The company is also “on the cusp” of signing a new wholesale agreement for both A&F and Hollister, according to Martinez, who emphasized that the deal is for the online channel only.
Martinez said there has been progress at both brands, with acceleration in the men’s line under the direction of head designer Aaron Levine, who joined the company in June. Hollister is further along in its progress, under the direction of Lisa Lowman, senior vice president of design for the brand, who joined the company in May 2015.
The company expects to have back-to-school floor sets in stores in late June, which Martinez said will showcase a more fully formed, cohesive assortment. The company also plans to add more personal care items over time, as well as expand its accessories offerings. Both are “underdeveloped categories that don’t [require] a huge amount of space in the stores, but can be productive in a small square footage,” Martinez said.
The company on Monday named Stacia Andersen the brand president for Abercrombie and Kristin Scott the president of Hollister. While neither one has started at the company, Martinez said the two had made campus visits before joining the company and are “in sync” with the strategy. “They will put their own imprint on [our] strategy when they get here,” he said.
In the conference call to Wall Street analysts, Fran Horowitz, the company’s president, identified the six key components of the strategy — being customer-centric; delivering compelling and differentiated assortments; defining a clear positioning for the brands; optimizing brand reach and channel performance; improving efficiency, and reducing expenses, and “ensuring we are organized to succeed.”
The company said for fiscal 2016 it expects comps to remain challenging in the second quarter, but then improve in the second half of the year. It plans to open 15 stores, with 10 in international markets, primarily in China. It also plans to open six outlet stores, and close up to 60 stores in the U.S. as leases expire.