Abercrombie & Fitch to close Simi Valley store, more than 100 layoffs

The Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister stores at Simi Valley Town Center will close by the end of March and lay off more than 100 employees as their parent company continues shutting domestic stores with lackluster sales.

The apparel chains, both under the Abercrombie & Fitch umbrella, wrote to Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks that both stores will close by March 31, bringing the layoffs of 117 people.

Eric Cerny, senior manager of investor relations, said the closures are part of a trend the company started in its fiscal year 2010.

"The brands have been expanding internationally and closing a lot of underperforming domestic stores," he said.

The company closed 65 stores at the end of fiscal year 2010 and an additional 55 to 60 stores at the end of 2011, Cerny said.

Abercrombie & Fitch also has a store at The Oaks shopping center in Thousand Oaks.

Based in New Albany, Ohio, the international retailer on Thursday reported that its overall comparable store sales were flat in its fourth quarter compared to the previous year and "below expectations, primarily due to lower-than-expected sales in U.S. stores."

Total U.S. sales, including direct-to-consumer sales, rose only 4 percent to $962.2 million for the fourth quarter, while international sales soared 62 percent to $366.6 million.

In the third quarter, international sales jumped 56 percent compared to the 14 percent increase in domestic sales.

As a result, the company has begun closing underperforming U.S. stores while expanding in Europe and Singapore.

Simi Valley Town Center, a 612,000-square-foot open-air shopping center, sits north of Highway 118 between First Street and Erringer Road.

Formerly owned by Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises, the center was sold to a limited-liability company set up by Chicago-based Walton Street Capital LLC, a private equity real estate investment firm, in December 2010.

The property had more than $112 million in debt at the time.

Anchor tenant Macy's in 2005 acquired anchor tenant Robinsons-May, resulting in two Macy's rather than two different department stores.

In 2008, Thousand Oaks competitor The Oaks mall secured a Nordstrom department store.

"It's sad to see them close at the Town Center and sad to see employee opportunities going away and local residents being affected," said Brian Gabler, director of economic development and assistant city manager for Simi Valley. "But the center will survive this and move forward."

He said the city will continue to talk with the mall's new owners on repositioning and redeveloping the center. He said he wasn't aware of any more pending vacancies.

"The good news is there is lots of tenant interest in opening stores there," Gabler said.

Source: VC Star