Abercrombie CEO Jeffries steps down as company seeks new look

Tue Dec 9, 2014 12:14pm EST
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By Devika Krishna Kumar

(Reuters) - Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N: Quote) Chief Executive Michael Jeffries, who transformed the teen apparel retailer from a drab sports brand into a fashion icon before running afoul of shoppers and investors, has stepped down after over two decades at the helm.

Jeffries, 70, has faced flak in recent years for failing to keep pace with the tastes of teen shoppers, who are increasingly turning to "fast fashion" chains such as Forever 21 and Inditex's (ITX.MC: Quote) Zara for their sartorial needs.

A team led by Executive Chairman Arthur Martinez will manage day-to-day operations until a new CEO is named, Abercrombie said on Tuesday.

Jeffries joined Abercrombie as CEO in 1992 and spearheaded the company's transition to logo-centric apparel, promoting the merchandise with racy catalogs.

He positioned the brand as one for "cool" teens, but stirred controversy when he said Abercrombie's clothes were not meant for "fat" people.

Failing to recover from the damage to its image following the comments, the company removed Jeffries as chairman in January after two years of falling same-store sales.

Abercrombie said in August that it would shed its traditional logo-centric apparel.

"Do I think that tomorrow there's a shift in strategy? No. Because I think that shift had already begun," Simeon Siegel, a top-rated analyst from Nomura Equity Research, told Reuters.   Continued...

Customers leave an Abercrombie & Fitch store at South Park mall in Charlotte, North Carolina November 25, 2011.  REUTERS/Chris Keane