The teen apparel retailer confirmed Wednesday that it was exploring a sale. The news comes after shares of the retailer spiked 12 percent to $14.21 on Wednesday following a Reuters report in the morning that the teen retailer is fielding takeover interest. The report said that Abercrombie retained Perella Weinberg to field acquisition offers. Later on in the day, a Dow Jones report said rivals American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) - Get Report and Express (EXPR) - Get Report have shown interest in Abercrombie.
The timing comes as Abercrombie's shares are trading near a 17-year low, while myriad retailers reliant on mall traffic, like Abercrombie, have filed for or struggled to avert bankruptcy this year. Some of the biggest names struggling include Charlotte Russe, J.Crew, Payless, Gymboree and BCBG Max Azria.
Current CEO Fran Horowitz has been on the job for just three months: she was promoted on Feb. 1 from president and chief merchandising officer.
Horowitz told TheStreet in an interview last quarter that her challenge is to revamp Abercrombie's classic Americana brand, a departure from the splashy logo-driven image that drove Abercrombie to its former popularity among teenagers.
"80 percent of our consumers, particularly in the U.S., are over the age of 18," she said. "So when we reference Abercrombie as being an American casual luxury brand for the 20-something- year-old consumer, that is our direction and focus. We are convinced we are in the right place for that consumer."
Shareholders were optimistic after Abercrombie's fourth-quarter earnings were reported on March 2. While the full-year net loss of 6 cents a share and same-store sales decline of 6 percent in the U.S. for the quarter were both worse than expected, Abercrombie shares rose 14 percent, driven by a better-than-expected international sales decline of 4 percent and Hollister same-store sales growth of 1 percent. (Abercrombie comparable sales declined 13 percent.)
Even still, Abercrombie's challenges are pretty obvious.
According to eMarketer data, Abercrombie's store count has declined at a compound annual growth rate of 3.7 percent over the past three years, with average sales per store, currently about $2.7 million, falling at a 3-year compound annual growth rate of 5.6 percent. Meanwhile, average sales per square foot of $343 have dropped by a compound annual growth rate of 6.4 percent during the same period.
Cowen analyst Oliver Chen estimated in a Monday note that Abercrombie, like many other retailers, will close 20 to 25 percent of its stores. Over the next five years, he estimates that it'll close 110 Abercrombie locations and 70 Hollister locations, out of a total of 331 Abercrombie locations and 398 Hollister locations in the United States as of Jan. 28. (There's also 44 Abercrombie stores and 145 Hollister stores abroad.)
Abercrombie has 50 percent of its store leases expiring at the end of next year. Horowitz said in the interview the company is "way ahead of the curve" on lease expiration and is considering store size reductions, alternative locations and rent relief in addition to store closures.
Three years ago, Abercrombie placated activist shareholder Engaged Capital, which pushed the company to sell itself or replace its CEO, Mike Jeffries. Jeffries was ousted months later.
Abercrombie is set to report its first-quarter earnings on May 25.
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