Abercrombie seen as early winner in Thanksgiving clothing sales

NEW YORK Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:46am EST

NEW YORK Nov 26 (Reuters) - Abercrombie & Fitch Co seemed to come out ahead of other clothing retailers during the annual Black Friday kickoff to the holiday shopping season, analysts said on Monday.

Abercrombie and Wal-Mart Stores Inc were among the perceived winners in a four-day weekend when some stores opened on Thanksgiving night and people shopped online in greater numbers than ever before.

The National Retail Federation trade group reported on Sunday that total sales for the four days from Thanksgiving through Sunday had risen 12.8 percent to $59.1 billion. That is down from a 16.4 percent increase last year.

Abercrombie, which operates the Hollister chain in addition to its namesake stores, "was the clear winner," with the longest lines and units per transaction during the weekend, according to Oppenheimer analyst Pamela Quintiliano.

Quintiliano said Ann Inc, which specializes in women's clothing, "may potentially prove to be the most disappointing as traffic never fully materialized on stable promotions."

UBS analyst Roxanne Meyer said the specialty retailers with the most foot traffic over the four-day weekend included Limited Brands Inc, American Eagle and Gap Inc, with relatively weaker traffic at Aeropostale, Cold Water Creek Inc and Chico's FAS Inc.

Like Ann, Cold Water Creek and Chico's focus on mature women shoppers, whereas American Eagle and Abercrombie target younger people.

Despite early signs of strength, analysts cautioned against reading too much into the results. Four of the five busiest shopping days of the season will come in the 10 days leading up to Christmas Day, according to ShopperTrak.

Janney Capital Markets analyst Adrienne Tennant downgraded shares of Aeropostale on Monday to "neutral" from "buy," citing increased competition from American Eagle and Abercrombie.

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