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Abercrombie & Fitch Sidesteps Malls To Shrink Footprint

Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is shrinking its footprint as it makes plans to exit top malls and shopping centers, Bloomberg reported on Monday (Jan. 13).

“We’re willing to walk away from any mall at this point,” said Abercrombie & Fitch Chief Financial Officer Scott Lipesky at the ICR Conference in Orlando on Monday (Jan. 13). “For us, it’s about getting the right store in the right location at the right size.”

The company began 2019 with 19 flagships around the world and hopes to reduce that number to just 12 by the end of this year as leases expire.

“The customer has changed so dramatically,” said Lipesky. “We don’t have a need for these large stores long-term.”

The teen retailer, which also owns Hollister, is aiming to slash square-footage as shoppers flock online. Chief Executive Officer Fran Horowitz said in November that shrinking the 677-store footprint was her top priority.

Abercrombie & Fitch closed flagships in New York, Milan and Fukuoka, Japan last year as leases ended. It is moving to accommodate just 12 stores along with the company’s flagship shops and is also eying large locations that are typically on tourist shopping streets. 

Every two years, Abercrombie has about half of its leases for the U.S. come up for renewal, Lipesky said. 

Some 7,600 U.S. stores shuttered in the first nine months of 2019, according to a report from Credit Suisse. That number is anticipated to go up, with more store closures in 2020. Abercrombie & Fitch has closed about 500 stores over the past decade.

Abercrombie & Fitch announced in March that it planned to close 60 stores as malls closed without formal announcements. Of the approximately 2,500 non-department store retail locations that closed in shopping malls in the U.S. over the past year, approximately 980 chose not to announce their closures. 

As landlords look to replace shuttered retailers, they are turning toward a mix of restaurants, lifestyle and specialty retail brands to fill the space.

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