Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Makeover Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

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As it gets set to launch its largest ever advertising campaign to kick off this year’s holiday season, retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) is introducing a new brand identity. Gone are the days of “clothes that symbolize membership in an exclusive group” in favor of a look that reflects “the character, charisma and confidence of today’s consumer while honoring the brand’s 125-year heritage as a quality, casual, and distinctively American luxury brand.”

Abercrombie’s rebranding effort includes a completely redesigned website, all-new digital advertising across video streaming websites, music platforms and social media, as well as out-of-home marketing in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

As with many retailers, performance during the holiday shopping season is crucial to Abercrombie’s success and even survival. When it reported second-quarter fiscal 2016 results at the end of August, the specialty retailer posted a larger-than-expected adjusted diluted loss per share of $0.25 on net sales of $783.16 million. Same-store sales for the quarter in both the United States and internationally fell 4% year over year.

In its outlook for the 2016 fiscal year, Abercrombie said it expects same-store sales to “remain challenging through the second half of the year.” Executive Chairman Arthur Martinez said at the time:

As we look to the rest of the year, we now expect flagship and tourist locations will continue to weigh on the business. Recognizing we are in a challenging environment, we are confident, however, that we are focusing on the right priorities and we expect to see traction in our business as we introduce new product and invest in marketing to drive awareness and relevance for our brands.

Hence the rebranding campaign just announced.

Shares dropped some 20% in the wake of the disappointing second-quarter results and outlook, and analysts were quick to cut price targets. Merrill Lynch said:

We expect Abercrombie’s margins to continue to move lower as currency, weak demand and a narrower pricing spread weigh on the profitable European division. The US business is showing signs of stabilization, with store closures and cost cuts helping to offset some margin pressure. However, headwinds remain for domestic teen retailers, including heightened competition and a weak fashion cycle.

Abercrombie shares are down about 9% since the earnings report and closed most recently at $16.13, in a 52-week range of $15.51 to $32.83. The stock traded above $70 a share five years ago, but the consensus price target is now $19.85.

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