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The New Abercrombie And Hollister Might Be Working On Teens

The company's comparable sales weren't as bad as usual this quarter.

Posted on August 26, 2015, at 1:58 p.m. ET

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Friendly interactions with customers, stores that you can see into, and non-nightclub lighting — these strategies appear to be working for Abercrombie & Fitch.

The company's two main brands Abercrombie and Hollister both saw sales fall in its latest quarter, but not as badly as usual, the company said today. Hollister, the bigger of the two businesses by revenue, posted a comparable sales decline of 1%, compared with 6% in the first quarter, while Abercrombie's comp sales fell 7% versus 9% in the first quarter.

This follows a comparable sales decline of 8% for the company overall last year, and a 11% drop in 2013.

Abercrombie has been revamping its brands under new leadership, announcing in April that it would do away with "sexualized marketing" and shift to a more convenient, friendly "customer-centric store-operating model." It also said that it would "adjust scent, lighting, music and trees" in its famously dark, nightclubby stores to provide "a more pleasurable shopping experience."

Today, executives said Hollister stores that have banished the porch storefront in favor of one you can see into continue to do well, and that Abercrombie is seeing success with "removing various props and fixtures" to improve "sightlines" in its stores.

Both brands, too, are relaxing once-rigid dress code and behavior rules for store associates, and encouraging them to actually interact with customers. (Abercrombie associates have said in the past that that they were instructed not to approach customers and offer help.)

Store employees now "have some latitude around moving fixtures," Jonathan Ramsden, the company's chief operating officer, said today on an earnings call. "We are also supporting them with some additional training in how they interact with customers and directing them to spend more of the hours that are within the store on customer-facing activities rather than back office-type activities."

Hollister noted that it's also successfully run campaigns on Instagram and on Snapchat, where it says it was the first global retailer to develop a customer filter.

Abercrombie's stock soared the most in almost three years today, according to Bloomberg News, after its adjusted profit of $8.6 million for the quarter beat analysts' expectations. The retailer still doesn't have a CEO after modern-day founder Mike Jeffries stepped down in December.

The company made headlines earlier this year when the Supreme Court sided with a Muslim woman who sought to work at Abercrombie & Fitch but was rejected because her headscarf, or hijab – worn because of her religious practices – violated the company's "Look Policy." Abercrombie also said today it paid almost $16 million in legal settlement charges in the quarter.

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