Abercrombie Becomes a Ruehl-Breaker

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Another one bites the dust -- another ancillary retail concept, that is. Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) is the latest retailer to shut down one of its nascent concepts in the midst of the ugly economic climate.

Abercrombie will shutter Ruehl, its retail concept for people a little older than the teens and college crowd that its core Abercrombie & Fitch business targets; it has 29 Ruehl stores. The company also amended its credit pacts and agreed to lower its credit line by $100 million, to $350 million.

This closure didn't come from out of the blue, since last month Abercrombie said it was doing a strategic review of the unit. Ruehl generated an operating loss of $58 million for the year ended January 2009, and its same-store sales plunged 34% last quarter -- a clear drag on the larger company. In addition to $51 million in non-cash charges related to the strategic review, this year Abercrombie will take additional charges of $65 million related to the closure.

Abercrombie's certainly not the only retailer to cut out a nascent concept. Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) has decided to get rid of its Costco Home concept. Tiffany (NYSE: TIF  ) is ditching its pearl concept, Iridesse. Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO  ) shuttered its Jimmy'Z stores. Talbots (NYSE: TLB  ) finally sold most of its beleaguered J. Jill unit. And I know some people wish American Eagle Outfitters (Nasdaq: AEO  ) would kick Martin + Osa to the curb.

As I've said about these other retailers in the past, a good run is better than a bad stand, and the ability to focus on core concepts is important. And given the consumer climate, companies shouldn't waste time and money on a concept that's just not working and continues to drain resources.

Investors cheered Abercrombie's decision, and the stock jumped yesterday. The troubles are by no means over for Abercrombie, though. Its sales have been flagging, and its comps were particularly abysmal, as teens flock to cheaper rivals such as Aeropostale.

I've often wondered why so many teens seemed to be crazy about Abercrombie's snooty and often disturbing culture. Now, it looks like Abercrombie has lost its cool, and if it doesn't get it back, investors may get burned.

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Costco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor and a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, and the Fool owns shares of it. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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