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Abercrombie & Fitch shares soar on earnings beat, retailer expects to close fewer stores than expected

Key Points
  • Abercrombie & Fitch tops third-quarter earnings and sales expectations, sending its stock soaring.
  • Total same-store sales were up 3 percent, better than an expected increase of 1.6 percent.
  • The teen apparel retailer says it had a "solid start to the holiday season."
Pedestrians are reflected in the window of an Abercrombie & Fitch store in San Francisco.
Getty Images

Abercrombie & Fitch shares soared more than 20 percent Thursday after the teen apparel retailer reported quarterly earnings and sales that topped Wall Street expectations, fueled by growth of its Hollister label and momentum in the U.S.

It also announced the promotion of Kristin Scott, who had been leading Hollister, to a new position of global brands president. Stacia Andersen, the brand president of Abercrombie & Fitch, will be leaving the company, it said.

Before Thursday's stock surge, Abercrombie shares had been down about 3 percent from a year ago.

Net income for the fiscal third quarter climbed to $23.9 million, or 35 cents per share, from $10.1 million, or 15 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, Abercrombie earned 33 cents per share, 13 cents ahead of analysts' expectations, based on a poll by Refinitiv.

Net sales grew 0.2 percent to $861.2 million, again topping estimates for $853 million.

Sales at stores open for at least 12 months were up 3 percent, better than the 1.6 percent increase forecast by analysts who cover the company. Same-store sales at Hollister were up 4 percent during the quarter, while those at Abercrombie were up 1 percent. In the U.S., same-store sales were up 6 percent, while they were down 3 percent internationally.

Abercrombie said digital sales were up 16 percent globally, as it continues to invest in its website and more online delivery options, and expects to surpass $1 billion in e-commerce sales in 2018. Seventy-five percent of Abercrombie's online traffic stems from mobile devices, according to the company, as its customer base skews younger.

The company added it now expects to close fewer stores this year "based on improved performance and successful lease renegotiations." It previously was planning to shut 60 stores, primarily in the U.S., but now is calling for 40 closures by the end of the year.

CEO Fran Horowitz said Thursday the retailer "had a solid start to the holiday season," with record sales between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. Abercrombie is calling for net sales and same-store sales to climb 2 percent to 4 percent for the full year, with net sales falling in the mid-single digits and same-store sales rising by the low-single digits during the fourth quarter.

On a call with analysts, CFO Scott Lipesky also said the company has only seen a "minor direct impact" from the China tariffs that have so far gone into effect, but the company continues to plan for additional tariffs on apparel.

"Abercrombie continues to benefit from product and marketing changes, along with store remodels and some help from the fashion cycle," Telsey Advisory Group analyst Dana Telsey said in a research note. "The better-than-expected top line performance (with positive comps at both brands along with strength in the domestic business) is an encouraging read."

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