* Cast offered money by company to stop wearing A&F
* The Situation causing “significant damage”
* Situation wearing A&F “terrible” news to exec (Adds MTV comment, Situation Tweet; updates share price)
By Roy Strom
NEW YORK, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N) has offered money to get away from what it sees as an undesirable Situation.
The preppy retailer has offered to pay cast members from MTV’s popular show “Jersey Shore” to stop wearing its clothes, it said in a news release late on Tuesday.
The company is “deeply concerned” that Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino “could cause significant damage” to the brand’s “aspirational nature.”
MTV, a unit of Viacom Inc VIAb.N, released a statement in response that called Abercrombie’s offer “a clever PR stunt.”
“We’d love to work with them on other ways they can leverage Jersey Shore to reach the largest youth audience on television,” the statement said.
“Jersey Shore” features a cast of twenty-something Italian Americans partying, tanning and complaining about their jobs at a beach-front T-shirt stand.
The offer could be considered an abrupt about-face for a company that previously sold T-shirts emblazoned with the wording “The Fitchuation,” and “G.T.L.” — the show’s common reference to a pre-party routine of “gym, tan lunch.”
Abercrombie Chief Executive Officer Mike Jeffries was eager to broach the topic on a conference call with analysts.
“Is no one going to ask about The Situation?” he asked.
When an analyst did ask, Jeffries said: “Last Friday morning I was with a group of people here and someone came up and said, ‘Mike, I have terrible, terrible news for you. Last night on ‘Jersey Shore’ The Situation had A&F product on.”
Jeffries said he and the group agreed it was “terrible news.”
That is when they came up with the idea to pay the cast not to wear their product, Jeffries said.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” he added.
The Situation, for his part, tweeted: “Looks like Abercrombie got themself into a Situation!” linking to an article that commented on the retailer’s shares falling 8.7 percent on Wednesday.
The share price fall was more widely attributed by analysts to CEO Mike Jeffries’ comments in a conference call that Abercrombie was entering a period of greater uncertainty. [ID:nL3E7JH1NE]
While seen as more of a publicity stunt than anything else, Abercrombie’s offer was mentioned in notes on Wednesday by Wall Street analysts.
“No love for ‘Jersey Shore!’” Nomura Securities Analyst Peter Lejuez wrote in a report titled, “Jersey abs not welcome here.”
Lejuez said shoppers in Europe, a region in which he says Abercrombie is eager to expand, may not like the look of the rambunctious reality show’s cast.
“They have a different look than The Situation,” Lejuez said in an interview.
Abercrombie also reported earnings on Wednesday that beat analysts’ expectations.
The results prompted Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi to write: “Management may be correct in asking (and offering to pay) the cast of ‘Jersey Shore’ to stop donning its logo-wear. It doesn’t need the infusion of MTV and side-job dollars from the ‘Jersey Shore’ crew, if 2Q11 was any indication.”
Sozzi said he found the offer to be “counter to everything the company stands for.”
“They have half-naked teenagers standing in front of their store,” he said, adding that the attention would help sales for the back-to-school season.
Still, those sales might need help. A cautious outlook from executives sent Abercrombie shares down 8.7 percent at the market close to $64.87. (Editing by Gerald E. McCormick; editing by Andre Grenon)