Wall Street’s Huge Bet Against Abercrombie Continues

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Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) has been an occasional target of Wall Street’s brutal bet against old-line retail. Evidence of that continued based on short interest for the period that ended October 15. The 16.5 million shares sold short are 25% of the float.

There are plenty of reasons for the short position. Abercrombie’s stock has held its own this year, up 7% to $19.43. Over the same period, the S&P 500 is down just over 1%. However, over a five year period, Abercrombie shares are down 47% against a 51% surge by the S&P.

Two months ago, when the retailer announced earnings, the figures disappointed. This led some to think the critical holiday period will be a challenge. Revenue rose 8% to $842 million, as comparable store sales were up 3%. However, the bottom line was difficult as the company had a net loss of $2.8 million.

And Abercrombie’s forecast was lackluster:

 For fiscal 2018, the company expects:
• Comparable sales to be up in the range of 2% to 4%
• Net sales to be up in the range of 2% to 4%, with net sales in the third quarter to be approximately flat to last year, including the adverse effects from the calendar shift and changes in foreign currency exchange rate

The fiscal third quarter extends through much of the holiday season, but it does not include the weeks just ahead of Christmas.

Short sellers are worried about the obvious. Abercrombie has dozens of retailer competitors both larger and smaller than it is. Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) continues to lay waste to the entire brick-and-mortar industry.

Abercrombie may pull a rabbit out of its hat, but it may have no hat to speak of.

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