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Dwindling Mall Traffic Forces Abercrombie & Fitch to Close 60 Stores

(Lauren Thomas)  Abercrombie & Fitch announced Wednesday it will be closing 60 stores later this year.

The teen apparel retailer, which also owns the brand Hollister, has been reconfiguring its store fleet in malls as more shoppers opt to buy clothes online. Last year, it closed nearly 40 stores, having previously planned to shutter 60 locations. In 2016, it closed about 50 shops.

The company has said many of its leases are up for renewal by the end of fiscal 2018, which gives it some flexibility to move out without a fight with landlords. Abercrombie hasn’t disclosed exactly which locations will be closing this year, or from which banners (Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister).

U.S. mall owners have been met with a handful of significant store closure announcements already in 2018, following what was a strong holiday season for many companies.

Best Buy is closing its roughly 250 mobile phone stores, Foot Locker is closing more than 100 stores, while department store chain Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy and is closing about 40 stores, to name a few. Walking Co., another popular mall tenant, also filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this week and said it’s seeking significant rent relief from landlords.

In shuttering some of its stores, though, Abercrombie has been able to invest in upgrading existing locations and roughly one year ago rolled out a new store prototype. Those stores are smaller and more open, with amenities like phone chargers in dressing rooms.

“The [teen apparel] group as a whole, and Abercrombie in particular, has tightened up their inventory, pricing and store/mobile experience,” Retail Metrics founder Ken Perkins told CNBC. “Zumiez and American Eagle have generated positive comp increases … with Abercrombie’s Hollister joining the party about a year ago.”

To be sure, dwindling mall traffic remains a concern for these apparel companies, “but things have definitely improved from this time last year,” Perkins said.

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