While Abercrombie & Fitch's (ANF) - Get Report namesake chain is selling some cooler threads in its stores this holiday season, consumers may still be staying away. And that could be weighing on profits during the crucial fourth quarter.
"Promotional activity at Abercrombie & Fitch has accelerated into December, which points to continued challenges despite efforts to re-position the brand," said Keybanc Capital Markets analyst Jessica Schmidt in a note on Monday. "A difficult competitive environment is likely at least partially to blame -- while we have noticed some improvement at the Hollister banner, we expect issues at Abercrombie & Fitch to more than offset that," Schmidt added.
The analyst went onto slash her earnings estimates across the board. For 2016, she sees a loss of 6 cents a share vs. a prior forecast for a profit of 4 cents a share. Next year, she now expects earnings of 35 cents a share compared to a previous forecast for 65 cents a share.
It wouldn't be a total shock if Abercrombie's holiday season was less than stellar.
Abercrombie's third-quarter same-store sales plunged 14%, worse than a 7% drop in the second quarter. It marked the 11th straight quarter of sales declines for the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, according to Bloomberg data. Same-store sales internationally dived 10%, lagging the 5% drop in the U.S.
Abercrombie fell victim once again to tepid sales at its flagship stores globally thanks to the strong U.S. dollar and terrorism threats in Europe hurting traveling plans and spending by tourists. "Tourist store traffic was a major headwind," Abercrombie & Fitch Executive Chairman Arthur Martinez said on a Nov. 18 conference call. Since then, the U.S. dollar has continued to surge, recently touching a 14-year high.
Meanwhile, sales for the Abercrombie & Fitch brand in the U.S. during the quarter weren't as bad as they were overseas, but still challenged nonetheless as consumers shunned the brand's pivot toward trendier offerings. "We have a long history we have to overcome, but we have a lot of equity in the Abercrombie & Fitch brand and I am confident we are headed in the direction," Abercrombie's President and Chief Merchandising Officer Fran Horowitz recently told TheStreet, adding that it will take some time for the brand's new target audience (24 to 34 years old) to notice the brand's fresh look.
Weak sales at its namesake brand have weighed heavily on the company's stock price -- it has plunged about 51% so far this year to $13.31.