Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) gave investors leery of teen retailers a nice surprise Tuesday. The company, based in New Albany, Ohio, topped Wall Street's second-quarter revenue and earnings forecasts. That puts the company in sharp contrast with rivals Hot Topic ( HOTT) and Wet Seal ( WTSLA), both of which were hammered in the market after warning of coming earnings shortfalls. Abercrombie reported earnings of 31 cents per share, up from 24 cents in the year-ago period. On average, analysts had been projecting earnings of 27 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call, although recently the company said it planned to exceed that figure. Abercrombie said it was comfortable with the current consensus estimate for the full year of $1.88, up from $1.65 last year.
The company has not been immune to the slowdown -- it reported a 5% drop in comparable-store sales for the quarter -- but has kept earnings afloat by keeping tight inventory controls and not slashing prices to the degree that some rivals have. Its gross margins improved to 40.1%, compared with 38.7% in the year-ago period. "Despite a challenging environment, we've focused on what we can control -- our brand and our bottom line," said Mike Jeffries, chairman and CEO, on a conference call with analysts and investors. The stock, which had been off about 20% on the year, closed up 80 cents, at $21.90, before climbing to $22.50 in after-hours trading on Island. The stock trades at less than 10 times earnings estimates -- remarkably cheap given that analysts project the company will grow at an annual rate of about 20% over the next five years.