May 12, 2009

News flash: Abercrombie losing sales, minds

Quiz: Your dominance of the teenage mall crowd has been crushed by a recession that's sending kids over to your similar, but lower-priced, rivals, while your higher-end line was sagging even during the boom years. Do you: A) hold giant sales? B) start closing stores? C) concentrate on reviving your main line? or D) open a giant flagship on 5th Ave. for your children's line? 

Well, if you're Abercrombie and Fitch, the once-invincible preppy-wear chain that built its brand on Bruce Weber's homoerotic images of underdressed male models and its ever-present wood-clad, dimly lit, heavily perfumed stores, you choose option D. After watching same-store sales decline 30% in February, 34% in March, and 22% in April, A&F has been quietly discounting merch at its A&F and slightly cheaper Hollister stores, but refuses to advertise the fact. Instead, it would seem they're counting on a new children's store in the failed Hickey Freeman location on Fifth Ave to revitalize the brand. Good luck, guys – you're going to need it. 

Meanwhile, in case there was any doubt as to where Abercrombie's former customers are now heading – lower-priced teen brand Aeropostale's sales are up 20%.
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