Shares of Aéropostale Inc. are now trading over the counter.
The teen retailer said Friday that shares of its common stock are now trading on the OTC-QX Best Market, effective immediately. The common stock’s new trading symbol is “AROP.” The OTCQX market is operated by the OTC Markets Group Inc.
The company said that it received notice from the New York Stock Exchange, where the shares had been trading, that the Exchange was planning to delist the company’s common stock because of the “abnormally low” trading price. Aéropostale elected not to appeal the decision, moving the trading instead to the OTCQX market.
It’s the latest headache Aéropostale executives have had to face, although not the most serious. On Thursday, word surfaced that the teen specialty chain might be eyeing a bankruptcy filing before the month is over. That speculation fueled a 27.7 percent drop in its share price, resulting in the Exchange suspending trading of the company’s common stock midafternoon. The stock price for Aéropostale shares when trading was halted was 15 cents. In its first day of OTC trading, the intraday trading range was a low of 5 cents and a high of 12 cents, with nearly 27 million shares changing hands. The stock closed the trading session at 7 cents.
The share price and listing issue have been kicking around for some time. The teen chain disclosed on Oct. 30 that the NYSE reached out about the listing requirement because its global market capitalization over a certain period was less than $50 million. And at the end of September, the Exchange had sent the retailer a separate notification regarding the average closing price of its common stock and how it was below the $1 minimum listing requirement.
Aéropostale on Friday was quick to note that the transition to the OTCQX market “does not affect the company’s business operations and does not change its public reporting requirements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.”
Right now the chain’s most immediate problem is the expected bankruptcy filing, making it the latest to file among the retail players in teen land. The company has already said it is exploring strategic options and financial alternatives, including a sale of the company or a restructuring. Further, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 15, the company said it was still locked in a dispute with MGF Sourcing over what it said is a “violation of a sourcing agreement.” The filing noted that the alleged “violation is causing a disruption in the supply of some merchandise, which if unresolved, could result in further liquidity constraints on the company.”
The teen market has been a pressured one for the last few years. Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. filed a Chapter 11 petition earlier this month. Last year saw the filings by The Wet Seal, Quiksilver, Mexx and American Apparel, while 2014 saw Deb Shops and Delia’s enter bankruptcy proceedings. They’ve all faced the same pressures from the lack of teen spending on fashion.
Abercrombie & Fitch Inc.’s chairman Arthur C. Martinez has told WWD that the “larger trend of the Millennial consumer spending more on electronics and eating out will continue. It makes the share of wallet available for fashion that much smaller.”
Walter Loeb on Friday said, “Teens are shopping for items, not fashion trends. When they shop at the fast-fashion retailers, they are basically limiting what they are buying. Fast fashion is now dictated not by the stores and not by their parents, but by the teens’ peers.” He is predicting that there could be more teen retailers that could be eyeing a chapter 11 down the road.
Citi Research analyst Paul Lejuez said earlier this month that a teen retailer probably has a 10-year span from 15 to 25 to sell to its customer before he or she moves on. The result is that “every 10 years” the retailer has to turn over their customer base completely, putting more pressure on them to “consistently attract that 14-year-old to replace the 26-year-olds they are losing.”
A few of the chains are now going through their own stages of growing pains, and at least appear to be holding their own. American Eagle so far saw a strong start to the first quarter. And Wolfe Research’s Adrienne Yih Tennant said that management meetings earlier this month show Abercrombie on the “recovery path.” Abercrombie’s younger teen sibling Hollister has shown improvement through product offerings and its value proposition. The remodeled stores are also easier to shop, with wider aisles and improved in-store lighting. Abercrombie’s corporate president, Fran Horowitz – she was also formerly Hollister’s brand president who took charge of the updated store concept — said both the teens and parents have been receptive to the in-store changes.