January 13, 2010, 12:00 AM

Holiday web sales decline for Abercrombie & Fitch

Even free shipping couldn’t help Abercrombie & Fitch post higher holiday web sales—or end the year with an uptick in total e-commerce revenue. December and preliminary full-year web sales declined 3.5% and 6.1%, respectively.

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Even free shipping couldn’t help Abercrombie & Fitch Co. post higher holiday web sales-or end the year with an uptick in total e-commerce revenue.

For the five weeks ended Jan. 2, Abercrombie & Fitch, No. 58 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name), reported:

  • Web sales, which the retailer calls direct-to-consumer sales, declined 3.5% to $44.0 million from $45.6 million in the prior year.
  • Total sales declined 10.5% to $482.5 million from $539.2 million in the prior year.
  • Comparable-store sales decreased year over year 19.0%.
  • The web accounted for 9.1% of total sales compared with 8.5% for the five-week period ended Jan. 3, 2009.
Abercrombie has yet to release its full-year results, but did cite some preliminary numbers in its December store sales report including:
  • Web sales in 2009 declined 6.1% to $230.1 million from $245.0 million in 2008.
  • Total sales declined 17.7% to $2.75 billion from $3.34 billion in the prior year.
  • Comparable-store sales decreased year over year 25%.
  • In 2009 the web accounted for 8.4% of total sales compared with 7.3% in 2008.
Like many other web retailers, Abercrombie used free shipping as a means to drive holiday sales. The retailer offered online shoppers free delivery through mid-December, according to an Internet Retailer survey that tracked free shipping offers among the 100 largest web merchants during the holidays.

But online holiday shopping sales dropped in part because Abercrombie waited too long to put in place the heavily discounted merchandise shoppers were looking for, says Paula Rosenbloom, managing partner at Retail Systems Research LLC. “They took a ‘no markdown’ stance and played what I call ‘markdown chicken’ at the wrong time,” says Rosenbloom. “The customer went elsewhere and by the time Abercrombie changed course it was too late.”

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