As it plows ahead in a turnaround mission that has proven fairly promising so far, Abercrombie & Fitch had more heartening news than usual to report to investors on Wednesday. Sales, while still not nearly as high as they have been in the past, exceeded expectations and have been moving in a positive direction throughout the first half of the fiscal year.
To be clear, Abercrombie is working its way back from a tough spot. During the 13 weeks leading up to Aug. 1, comparable sales — those for stores that have been around for at least a full year — dropped seven percent for Abercrombie and one percent for Hollister relative to the same period last year. But stay with me here! That's better than the nine and six percent drops the brands experienced last quarter. And Executive Chairman Arthur Martinez says sales improved sequentially throughout the quarter, so while the company still has a long way to go, it's at least moving in the right direction.
According to executives, things are improving more quickly in women's than in men's, owing partly to the fact that the design and merchandising teams have been able to introduce new and varied product to the women's category more quickly. It's also somewhat notable that, after promising in April that all overly sexualized marketing would be banished by July, Abercrombie has taken its Instagram imagery in a strongly Free People direction — right down to casting FP frequent flyers Camille Rowe, Sheila Marquez (seen above) and Amanda Norgaard. If anyone's kicking ass at the women's retail game right now, it's Free People. Why not imitate a winning formula? (Okay, an interest in originality is perhaps one reason.)
As for that search for a new CEO, which has been ongoing since Michael Jeffries stepped down in December: it's still ongoing. Better to take the time to get it right, executives said. Indeed.