American Eagle preps for strong back-to-school; stock up

Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:08am EDT

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(Reuters) - American Eagle Outfitters Inc (AEO.N) forecast a fiscal-year profit above Wall Street estimates as it beat out competitors like Aeropostale and Abercrombie, sending its shares up nearly 5 percent.

The company said on Wednesday that it expected earnings of $1.33 to $1.36 a share from continuing operations. Analysts on average had forecast $1.32, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The outlook "reinforces our belief that American Eagle is taking share this back-to-school season," analyst Jennifer Davis of Lazard Capital Markets wrote in a note to clients.

The back-to-school season is the second-biggest selling season for retailers after the winter holidays.

Davis said American Eagle had the best product assortment among rivals. The company has been conservative in its outlook, she added.

Hoping to maintain its popularity with teens during the back-to-school season, American Eagle has changed clothing lines faster and kept up with its younger clientele's fast-changing tastes in fashion, while rivals Aeropostale Inc (ARO.N) and Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N) have struggled.

Chief Executive Officer Robert Hanson said the number of active American Eagle customers had risen 33 percent during the quarter, despite fewer promotions.

In contrast, Aeropostale lost customers as it offered too many basics and not enough fashions, leading to markdowns.

Abercrombie said last week that quarterly sales at stores open at least a year had fallen 11 percent for the flagship Abercrombie & Fitch chain and 10 percent at Hollister, the company's largest brand by sales.

For the second quarter ended July 28, American Eagle said it had earned $19.03 million, or 9 cents a share, down from $19.7 million, or 10 cents a share, a year earlier.

But excluding charges for closing its children's unit, earnings of 21 cents a share met analysts' estimates.

Earlier this month, the company said sales had risen 11 percent to $740 million, while same-store sales were up 9 percent.

American Eagle shares were up 4.7 percent at $21.81 in early New York Stock Exchange trading.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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