Why New Abercrombie & Fitch Store Concept Is Likely Not Aggressive Enough

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Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) is one of the great American brands. Unfortunately, its brand history has gone from iconic to tired. At least that’s what shareholders must think. After its sales peaked at $4.51 billion in 2013, Abercrombie has seen them drop each year since. Analysts also expect sales to drop for fiscal 2017 and 2018, with only a minor recovery anticipated in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

Now Abercrombie is announcing new store concepts for the first time in about 15 years. This company has endured the same issues as many apparel retailers due to slower mall traffic and a competitive landscape. Apparel sellers must tread cautiously, as they often have entirely new revenue generators two or three times each year, and we all know how fickle its age group of customers can be.

While new store concepts can come with big risks, they can completely reform the image of a company. This change from Abercrombie may simply be too little an effort for too low a yield. On the other hand, if Abercrombie customers respond well then you might see a much more aggressive roll-out in calendar years 2018 and 2019.

The new store concept is said to bring a unique and personal shopping experience to the stores. Innovative fitting rooms and omnichannel efforts will be made to capitalize on convenience. The company also noted that its sales associates in the stores will assist shoppers to place orders online and for pickup.

The first new concept store will open on Friday, February 17, at the Polaris Fashion Mall in Columbus, Ohio. Abercrombie also noted that 20% of all opening weekend sales will be donated to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This boutique is 4,860 square feet and is said to be the first of seven stores that will be built in 2017. It was designed by M.J. Sagan Architecture, which was also shown to have been involved in the creation of the company`s New Albany headquarters.

Abercrombie said that there are striking updates that begin at the entrance. The storefront is said to be transparent and features a metal sculpture of an A&F logo first used in the early 1900s. Customers will see two shop-in-shops: a fragrance “apothecary” and an area for seasonal capsule collections. There will also be a dedicated denim room.

Mannequins for both genders will live on a concrete platform that runs from the storefront through the middle of the store, showcasing the key trends and ideas for the current season. The interior features a cohesive palette of modern, tactile materials including cork, bronze, galvanized steel, concrete, vegan leather, wood and marble that act as a neutral but complimentary background to the collections.

Below is a recent history of Abercrombie revenue:

  • $3.5187 billion (Jan-2016)
  • $3.7440 billion (Jan-2015)
  • $4.1169 billion (Jan-2014)
  • $4.5108 billion (Jan-2013)
  • $4.1581 billion (Jan-2012)

The Thomson Reuters consensus analyst estimates for fiscal revenues are as follows:

  • $3.335 billion (Jan-2017)
  • $3.309 billion (Jan-2018)
  • $3.335 billion (Jan-2019)
  • $3.524 billion (Jan-2020)

New concept stores can be great for companies that need to revitalize their brands. Unfortunately, it also represents an increase in capital spending. These efforts can lead to each store being revamped, taking a store offline for a month or more, and that means no effective sales at that location.

So far, investors are taking a wait and see attitude on the news of a new concept store. Only rolling this out in seven new stores means that the effort is being tested rather than being touted as the next major phase of the company.

Abercrombie shares were last seen down two cents on Monday, at $11.67 in a 52-week range of $10.91 to $32.83. That means that the stock is down almost two-thirds from its 2016 highs. The shares were trading at almost $75 at the most recent peak back in 2011 and at $80 before the Great Recession. Sadly, the current share price is even lower than at the peak of the recession selling in late 2008 and the start of 2009.