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Abercrombie looking to 'Ruehl'
Teen retailer is gearing up to launch new, more grown-up clothing line early next month.
August 27, 2004: 3:33 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is counting down the days to the debut of its new-concept clothing line, "Ruehl."

Abercrombie alerted analysts about the upcoming debut of its new concept  
Abercrombie alerted analysts about the upcoming debut of its new concept "Ruehl" on Sept. 7.

In uncharacteristic fashion, the New Albany, Ohio-based retail has been pretty hush-hush about the project, but industry watchers are speculating that Ruehl will mark a distinct departure for the teen apparel seller.

Brian Tunick, retail analyst with JP Morgan, expects the clothing line to appeal to a more mature clientele, either to young professionals or to consumers hunting for their first job out of school.

"They're probably trying to attract the college graduate with a line that's a mixture of casual, with some formal wear, maybe even some elements of suiting," said Tunick, who hasn't yet seen the merchandise.

Abercrombie (ANF: Research, Estimates) alerted analysts to Ruehl's unveiling, expected to take place on Sept. 7.

Abercrombie spokeswoman Marion Greenberg confirmed that the retailer would introduce the line to analysts and industry watchers first, but she declined to offer more information about its official launch to the public.

Ruehl will be Abercrombie's second new-product introduction this year. The first was the Ezra Fitch collection, to be launched in Abercrombie & Fitch stores this fall; the line includes leather jackets, cashmere sweaters, jeans and denim jackets.

Ruehl, meanwhile, is expected to launch as a test in five Ruehl chain stores around the country, said Tunick.

If that's the case, it would also extend Abercrombie's retail portfolio, which currently consists of 727 stores nationwide, including its namesake stores, 171 Abercrombie Kids stores and 197 Hollister stores.

"Abercrombie isn't afraid to take risks," said Tunick. "Certainly they have proven with their Hollister teen division that they can open a new concept in a short amount of time and be profitable."

Some industry watchers suggest the theory behind Ruehl is to extend the A&F brand to the next age segment.

Marshal Cohen, retail analyst with NPD Group, commented that "more and more 35- to 40-year-olds are dressing like they're 25. The other favorable trait of this demographic is that it tends to stay loyal to a brand compared to the fickleness of teen consumers."

At the same time, Tunick said he's a little puzzled by the controversial retailer's subdued approach regarding Ruehl. "They do seem to have a knack for raising eyebrows, but they probably want to downplay it here," he said.  Top of page




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