Abercrombie has created the new role of chief merchandising officer

Abercrombie has created the new role of chief merchandising officer

Teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has promoted Fran Horowitz to the role of chief merchandising officer, a move one analyst says signals a clear indication that "improvement at Hollister is significant". 

Currently president of Hollister, in her newly-created role Horowitz will have responsibility for all of the company's brands, reporting to executive chairman Arthur Martinez.

Meanwhile, Christos Angelides, who has served as Abercrombie & Fitch brand president since October last year, has left the company. The retailer said it expects to name new presidents for each of its brands at the appropriate time, all of whom will report to Horowitz.

"Abercrombie & Fitch continues to make encouraging progress executing on its strategy to provide compelling, customer-focused shopping experiences based on clearly defined brand positions," said Martinez. "We are pleased with our performance for the quarter to date and are on track to deliver continued sequential improvement in comparable sales and achieve the profit expectations we had coming into the quarter.

"Fran's merchandising skills and her exceptional leadership, which has inspired associates to focus all their efforts on an intense understanding and commitment to our customers, has ignited a turnaround at our Hollister brand. This promotion provides Fran the opportunity to play an even greater role in our future success as we focus on building shareholder value by positioning each of our brands for sustainable growth."

Stifel analyst Richard Jaffe said of the move: "Horowitz's promotion is a clear indication to us that the improvement at Hollister is significant and ongoing into 4Q and that the underperformance and lack of improvement at Abercrombie has only increased."

"Good news is that the company now has a strong merchant leader; bad news is that the Abercrombie business is performing poorly and needs a leader."

FBR & Co analyst Susan Anderson added that the promotion puts Horowitz "one step closer to the CEO role". 

"Abercrombie & Fitch has yet to find a new CEO and the thought has always been that one of the two brand presidents could eventually assume that role. That said, we believe Fran has likely become the top choice out of the two former brand presidents given the Hollister performance, the team/strategy she has assembled around the Hollister brand, and now her promotion to CMO where she will be in charge of both brands."

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Jeffries steps down

Horowitz joined Abercrombie & Fitch in October 2014 from Ann Taylor Loft, where she was brand president. Prior to this, she worked at Express for eight years, rising to the position of EVP of women's merchandising and design.

In Abercrombie's third-quarter, the company nearly doubled earnings to reach US$41.9m from $18.2m a year earlier, while gross margin improved to 63.7% from 62.2% last year. 

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