This is shaping up to year when we no longer recognize most of the names on our local mall's floor plan. First The Limited revealed it was shuttering outposts; then, Wet Seal and BCBG revealed plans to close stores. (The latter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 1.) Now, another beloved brand of our youth is scaling back its retail presence: Abercrombie & Fitch will close 60 brick-and-mortar locations in 2017.
The announcement came as part of the company's earnings call to discuss fourth quarter results. Overall, net sales for Abercrombie & Fitch in 2016 were down 9%. (In the last quarter, they decreased by 13%.) Fran Horowitz, the brand's chief executive officer, said that while the final numbers weren't what the company hoped for, the outlook remains positive. "Hollister, our largest brand, achieved positive comp sales and the Abercrombie brand renewal continues, although it is a work in progress," she said in a statement. "While overall results did not meet expectations, 2016 was a year of significant progress on each of our strategic priorities." Those include evolving and rebranding the retailers' identity, maintaining open communication with its customer, and responding to the ever-changing retail landscape — which, yes, includes store closures.
However, you can wipe off any premature tears with your plaid-clad sleeves: There are still 674 Abercrombie & Fitch stores that'll remain open worldwide, per Business Insider. Plus, the retailer has been closing retail locations every year for a while now. "We haven't been shy about [closing stores]," Joanne Crevoiserat, the retailer's chief financial officer, told analysts on the earnings call, CNBC reported. In 2012, Abercrombie & Fitch had 839 locations worldwide, per Fortune; last year, it closed 54 outposts, according to Reuters.
In a statement to Refinery29, a spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch went into more detail about the company's plan in the next year. "Our strategy for our store fleet is to strike the right balance; this is a continuing, and important aspect of balancing our channels in response to evolving customer preferences, as well as improving overall store productivity," the company noted. "We have been ahead of the curve within the industry on optimizing the store fleet, which includes closing under-performing stores. Since 2010, we have closed about 400 stores and intend to close approximately 60 this year. Additionally, we continue to invest in our fulfillment, mobile, and omnichannel capabilities, ensuring that we can meet our customers’ needs regardless of when, where or how they are looking to shop."
Here's some more reason to be optimistic about the future of this early aughts favorite: Abercrombie & Fitch's sister brand, Hollister, reported positive comp sales in the final quarter, after going through its own revamp. Hopefully, Abercrombie & Fitch's new look finally catches on this year, so that by this time next year, it can follow suit.
This story has been updated with a statement from Abercrombie & Fitch.