A woman stands near an Abercrombie and Fitch store in San Francisco.
While apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch reported a sales decline of more than 30% during its latest quarter, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, its results also hinted at a rapid rebound among younger consumers as it reopens stores across the U.S.
Abercrombie said it’s recovered about 80% of its sales in the U.S. stores it has opened so far, compared with a year ago. And it has reopened 45% of its stores in the country, or 285 locations.
It said shoppers appear to be flocking to malls to visit its stores in the U.S. at a faster pace than in parts of Asia. Abercrombie also owns the Hollister and Gilly Hicks lingerie brands, which are geared toward a younger customer than the namesake label and offer more casual, beach-themed tops and bottoms.
The early results from Abercrombie compare favorably with Macy’s, which said earlier this month that its sales are down about 50% in its recently reopened department stores.
One reason for the stark contrast could be that teens — one of Abercrombie’s target groups of customers — are ready to spend, more than older generations. Many of them are out of school and looking for something to do with friends, to pass the time during the pandemic.
“Yes, perhaps they are feeling more comfortable [shopping] because they are younger,” CEO Fran Horowitz said in a phone interview after the company reported earnings.
“Currently we are beating our expectations,” she said, referring to its sales targets and the 80% figure.
Abercrombie might not be alone in this scenario, either.
One analyst was expecting sales volumes for mall-based retailers, such as Abercrombie, as they reopened to be around 25% to 30% compared with normal levels. Be he says they are trending closer to 55%.
“The stores that are opened now are doing better than they anticipated, better than I anticipated,” Jan Kniffen, CEO of consulting group J Rogers Kniffen WWE, told CNBC. “It really looks like a V-shaped recovery if you are looking at the retailers.”
Still, sales are nowhere near where they used to be. But this is a glimmer of hope.
Recently, to try to stay connected with a younger audience, Hollister held a virtual prom event that was attended by more than 70,000 teens. It also has been using the social media app TikTok to connect with millennials during the Covid-19 crisis, according to Horowitz.
Anecdotally, retail analysts have also recently spotted long lines outside of reopened Forever 21 and L Brands‘ Pink stores, which tend to be a draw for teen shoppers. To be sure, many retailers are still limiting the number of customers who can venture in at once.
“The invincible teen consumer seems willing and eager to return to the physical world,” Stacey Widlitz, president of SW Retail Advisors, said in an interview.
Meantime, the apparel industry as a whole appears to be rebounding slightly, according to fresh data from NPD Group, rising off its lows. Apparel dollar sales in the U.S. during the final week of April were down 35% compared with the same week a year ago, NPD said. But that represents just half of the losses the industry saw at the lowest point during the pandemic, it said.
The industry tracking firm said consumers look to be shifting spending away from necessities, finally, and more toward “wants.”
Kids clothing has been a notable bright spot, NPD added.
“There are far more younger than older people in Scottsdale, Arizona … which is a change as it’s usually more balanced as there is a strong retirement community here,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, said in an interview about who he has spotted returning to stores in his community.
“Our consumer data show that younger shoppers, especially teens, are more confident about going out to shop than their older peers,” he added. “That’s translating into higher footfall from those groups in malls.”
Abercrombie did not offer a second-year or full-year outlook.