From one of the articles: "A&F's "classic" look just doesn't command teen attention like it used to."
Really? Does the author have any stats to back that up? Oops, no. As mentioned in an earlier post, ANF has over half a million Facebook fans, a better sign ANF has the attention of target customers than unsubstantiated statements.
Excellent recap post. The information you directed us to is focused on the key element, the interaction between the company and the customer.
I have seen some talk on this board and in the recent upgrade statements about free cash flow, capital structure, ratios, etc. All meaningless in the long run if the customer relationship is degrading. Trumpeting price reduction as a savior is absurd, it only delays the inevitable end result. Cut prices enough and you start to bump up against retailers below you on the price scale who are really good at it. And let us not even discuss the difficulty involved in climbing back up the price scale. Just ask the management at Sears, excuse me, I mean Kmart.
A significant problem is the absence of marketing education, skill, and experience among financial analysts and the companies they work for. I have taught marketing and leadership in an accredited MBA program for many years, and if there is one thing financial majors are sure of it is that only their area of expertise is of any value. They actually resent the fact that they need to depend upon marketers (and the truly untouchable class, salespeople) to provide the cash they need in order to undertake the manipulations that enrich them personally as they transfer money from shareholders to management.
This comes through clearly in quarterly conference calls, where the analysts will carefully question an arcane inventory valuation methodology change while blithely allowing a marketing channel change that is sure to kill the company just pass by. They do not understand it, and therefore cannot evaluate it.
As a general manager and eventually executive and owner I learned to appreciate the value of every type of business expertise, but I never forgot the advice I got from the CEO who first promoted me to a general management position: Keep your eye on the top line; use your best talent to increase price and volume- the rest will not take care of itself, but whatever problems occur between the top and bottom lines are manageable. What is not manageable is the loss of customer confidence.