Abercrombie & Fitch
Check out the Hades-bound trajectory in the quarter: Net income down 39%; revenue down 15%; same-store sales down a nauseating 22%. But hey! Adjusted earnings of $0.30 per share beat analysts' expectations of $0.20.
Color me unimpressed. Investors can play the "relative perspective" game all they like, but they won't persuade me that Abercrombie has anything good going on.
Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries said the retailer does plan to offer some lower-priced merchandise for spring, reminding us that the company's business model usually avoids markdowns, since they may tarnish the brand. Anybody who's followed Abercrombie under Jeffries over the years knows that he has historically stood firm against marking down the retailer's pricey "aspirational" merchandise. But these days, many consumers simply can't pay higher prices. We'll see how well the company handles this tightrope walk in the spring.
Abercrombie could be facing a huge headwind, if consumers' newly regained frugality lingers. What's more, shoppers' penny-pinching mind-set may not mesh well with the ugly reputation that Abercrombie has fostered at times. The chain's alleged shallow focus on physical appearance, and the aloof mean-girls-and-boys image it cultivated, are probably better left back in the bubble era.
While it's always important to recognize that discounting may tarnish a brand's image -- as it may have done for Gap
On the low end,Wal-Mart Stores
I wouldn't shrug off the serious risks Abercrombie faces. Shareholders had better hope that Jeffries can steer the company to adapt with the times. The retailer's lengthy streak of disappointing business performance concerns me, and again, its stubborn aversion to lower-priced wares has not helped. If Jeffries can't turn the company around, why is he paid the big, big bucks to run it at all?
Would you plunk down money on Abercrombie shares right now? Let us know in the comments boxes below.