Abercrombie & Fitch brings back racy catalog

NEW YORK — Preppy teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is reinstating its racy A&F Quarterly catalog after a seven-year absence.

The catalog is available for pre-order on Abercrombie's website for $10 per issue. It starts publication on July 17.

Abercrombie was one of the hardest-hit teen retailers during the recession as customers abandoned its relatively high-priced flannel shirts and jeans for lower-priced competitors such as Aeropostale Inc. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

But the company has seen better results during the first half of 2010 as it improved its clothing assortment, lowered prices and cut costs. From the beginning of the year until the end of May, revenue in stores open at least one year, a key measure of a retailer's fiscal health, rose 1 percent, while total revenue rose 13 percent to $885.4 million.

Abercrombie discontinued publication of A&F Quarterly, of which Bruce Weber was the photographer, in 2003. There had been complaints about sexually suggestive photographs, but Abercrombie never said that that was the reason the catalog's U.S. run ended.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Howard Tubin, who rates the company "Sector Perform," said the catalog probably won't make a material difference on earnings, but added that any media exposure related to the catalog will be a positive for the New Albany, Ohio-based company.

"They are starting to reconnect with some of their customers and want to drive more traffic into their stores and e-commerce site," he said. "A catalog is one way for them to do that."

Abercrombie did not return a call seeking comment. Shares fell 32 cents to $31.73 during morning trading.

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