Abercrombie & Fitch wants clothes off Jersey Shore
By Roy Strom
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co 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 Tuesday.
The company is "deeply concerned" that Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino "could cause significant damage" to the brand's "aspirational nature."
"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."
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's 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.
MTV is a unit of Viacom Inc.
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 that beat analysts' expectations on Wednesday.
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. Jeffries said on the call following the release of the results that Abercrombie was "entering a period of greater uncertainty," sending its shares down 8.5 percent to $65.01 in afternoon trading.
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)