Still, headwinds remain. Customers still prefer fast-fashion stores, which are expanding their store counts as teen stores trim theirs, and the environment is still highly promotional. Comparable-store sales are down 5.3 percent—the worst of any retail segment, according to Retail Metrics.
"At each of [the teen retailers] there is marginal progress," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. "The one commonality they all share is that the brand concepts are much less relevant to the way kids shop and live today."
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Almost across the board, analysts cited improvement at all four major teen sellers, and applauded steps such as Abercrombie's plan to exit the logo business in North America by spring 2015, and American Eagle's plan to shift away from its denim-heavy assortment to more soft dressing trends, such as the red-hot "athleisure" category.
Experts also sounded a bullish note on Aéropostale's Bethany Mota and Tokyo Darling sub-brands, and Urban Outfitters' comments that it is seeing little resistance to slightly higher prices on new items at its struggling namesake label.
Still, analysts cautioned that while things look better on the selling floor, it will likely take time for teens to respond to the changes. Following Abercrombie's results on Thursday, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe said in a note to investors that "change is underway, but 3Q is likely to prove challenging as consumer acceptance of the change is expected to take time."
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At Aéropostale, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said "the relative outperformance of fashion product and newer sub-brands is encouraging, just not enough yet to set the company on a path towards better financial results."
And although experts had mostly positive reads on Aéropostale's recent announcement of the return of CEO Julian Geiger—who is largely credited with making the brand a mainstay among the teen set—Wells Fargo analyst Paul Lejuez emphasized the retailer is a different company than it was in 2010, when he was last there.
"Basics and logo product [Aéropostale's bread and butter in Geiger's former tenure] no longer produce the margins they once did, as competition has intensified," Lejeuz said.