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Urban Outfitters notches a win in musical chairs battle

Shoppers with their Urban Outfitters shopping bags in Soho in New York
Richard Levine | Corbis | Getty Images
Shoppers with their Urban Outfitters shopping bags in Soho in New York

Abercrombie & Fitch is out, and Urban Outfitters is in.

With teenagers' preferences changing as often as their Snapchat filters, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik on Tuesday similarly swapped one teen retailer for another on the firm's franchise stock pick list.

Abercrombie's turnaround took another step back during the second quarter, after showing signs of a nascent recovery last year. Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters generated record revenue and profit during the three-month period, topping Wall Street's forecasts for sales, earnings and gross margin.

Shares of Urban Outfitters are up roughly 15 percent since it reported those results last month, but Konik says they have more room to run.

"Urban Outfitters has been ahead of the curve on the 'retro' trend through (often exclusive) partnerships with brands that saw their 'hey days' in the 90s including Adidas, Calvin Klein, Fila, Wrangler, & Tommy Hilfiger," Konik told investors in a note.

"With [roughly] 90 percent of the apparel mix exclusive to Urban Outfitters, we think Urban has set itself apart from its peers," the note said.

Konik placed a $45 price target on the stock. It was trading near $36 in early trading, having dipped slightly.

Konik has long argued that the apparel sector is due for a rebound, as spending on hard goods (including automobiles) shows signs of a slowdown. Part of his thesis rests on what he considers appealing new fashions, including fresh takes on bomber jackets and denim.

Others have said the category will benefit from cleaner inventory levels, which should reduce the need for steep discounts, along with more seasonable temperatures. Last year's warm winter left many retailers with too many coats and scarves on the shelves, eroding their margins.

Still, Urban's recovery faces internal challenges. In particular, the company has struggled to get all three of its brands — Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People — firing all at once. In the latest quarter, comparable sales at the higher-priced Anthropologie label fell 3 percent, while Free People's were flat. The Urban Outfitters label generated 5 percent comparable-sales growth.

Jefferies still has a "buy" rating on Abercrombie & Fitch, but said the benefits from a stronger fashion cycle will be offset by tourism headwinds. American Eagle has likewise seen a resurgence, due to the success of its aerie and denim lines.

Teen retailers have been working to reinvent themselves over the past few years, after losing business to fast-fashion companies including H&M.