Abercrombie & Fitch warns of tough holiday sales

Reuters

* Comparable sales fall 14 pct in third quarter

* Holiday quarter comparable sales to be down in low doubledigits

* Cuts full-year adjusted earnings/share view to $1.40-$1.50vs est $1.96

* Shares fall as much as 15 pct in after-market trading

By Maria Ajit Thomas

Nov 5 (Reuters) - Abercrombie & Fitch Co reportedanother double-digit drop in quarterly same-store sales andwarned of a tough holiday season, as the teen retailer struggleswith the changing tastes of young shoppers.

Shares of the company, which also slashed its full-yearadjusted profit forecast, fell 15 percent after the bell.

Abercrombie's same-store sales declined 14 percent in thethird quarter, its seventh straight quarterly decline. They fell10 percent in the second quarter ended Aug. 3.

The company expects a low double-digit decrease incomparable sales for the current quarter, which includes thecritical December selling season.

"The holiday is setting up to be incredibly challenging forsoftline retailers specifically those that cater to a teencustomer," SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Pamela Quintilianosaid.

She cited the six fewer shopping days this season, a strongelectronics cycle with the launch of new videogame consoles andthe new iPad, and the lack of must-have fashion for the expectedweakness.

Young shoppers also increasingly prefer the trendier andmore affordable merchandise offered by "fast fashion" chainssuch as Inditex's Zara and Forever 21, shying away fromthe logo-centric clothes at Abercrombie and rivals Aeropostale and American Eagle.

Lower levels of teen employment are also reducing shoppingbudgets for young shoppers.

"Our results for the third quarter reflect continuedtop-line challenges, with overall spending among youngerconsumers remaining weak," Abercrombie Chief Executive MikeJeffries said in a statement.

The company said it expects adjusted earnings for the fullyear of $1.40-$1.50 per share, down from its forecast of$3.15-$3.25 per share in May.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $1.96 pershare, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Abercrombie warned of significant gross margin erosion inthe fourth quarter as it discounts heavily to clears excessinventory.

Net sales fell 12 percent to $1.03 billion in the thirdquarter ended Nov. 2, missing analysts' average estimates of$1.07 billion.

The retailer said it will incur pre-tax charges of about $90million-$100 million in the quarter related to the restructuringof its Gilly Hicks intimate apparel brand.

Abercrombie said it will close all of its standalone GillyHicks stores and offer the brand through its Hollister storesand online.

The company released its forecast ahead of a presentation toanalysts on Wednesday.

Shares were down 5 percent at $36.10 after the bell. Theyhad closed at $38.31 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

The stock has lost a fifth of its value this year throughTuesday's close.

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