Abercrombie & Fitch Makes Little Headway in Turnaround Effort

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) reported fourth-quarter and fiscal 2014 results before markets opened Wednesday. For the quarter, the specialty retailer posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.15 on revenues of $1.12 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.85 on revenues of $1.3 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.15 and $1.17 billion in revenues.

For the full year, Abercrombie reported EPS of $1.54 on revenues of $3.74 billion, compared with 2013 results of $1.91 in EPS on revenues of $4.12 billion. Analysts were looking for EPS of $1.56 and revenues of $3.78 billion.

Same-store sales for the quarter in the United States fell 10% and direct-to-consumer (online) sales rose 4%, for a combined decline of 6%. Same-store sales internationally fell 20%, while direct sales rose 15%, for a combined decline of 15%. Same-store sales for the company fell 13%, direct sales rose 1% and combined sales fell 10%. Gross margin rose from about 59.0% year-over-year to 60.9%.

Full-year same-store sales fell 12%, while direct-to-consumer sales rose 10%, for a combined decline of 8%.

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In its outlook for 2015, Abercrombie said it expects the negative impact on same-store sales as a result of lower logo sales to “modestly abate and neutralize in the second half” of 2015. Headwinds from currency exchange rates are forecast to be “significant.” Gross margins are forecast to be flat to up slightly, driven by cost savings. Abercrombie did not provide an EPS or revenue forecast, but analysts are looking for a first-quarter loss of $0.23 per share on revenues of $756.13 million, as well as full-year EPS of $1.62 on revenues of $3.64 billion.

The company expects to open 15 full-price stores during the year in Asia and the Middle East and four in the United States. Abercrombie also plans to open 11 new U.S. outlet stores and to close approximately 60 stores during the year.

The company’s CEO said:

Our 2015 priorities are clear. First, we need to improve comparable sales trends in both our U.S. and international stores driven by an evolved assortment and an increased focus on the customer experience. Second, we will make further strategic investments in our successful [direct-to-consumer] and omni-channel business. Third, we will continue to seek ways to reduce expenses and be more efficient. Finally, we will selectively expand our international footprint in high growth markets. We expect the first half of 2015 to remain challenging … However, we believe that the benefits of all of the changes we have made will be reflected in improved performance in the second half of the year.

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Long-time Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries retired in early December after a stormy few years. The shares are down about 42% in the past 12 months, with the bulk of the damage coming since late August. This latest report will not repair the damage.

Shares traded down about 6% at $22.53 in Wednesday’s premarket, barely within the 52-week range of $23.12 to $45.50. The consensus target price for the shares was $29.00 before the report.

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