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UPDATE 1-Abercrombie sees smaller decline in holiday-quarter sales

(Adds background, gross profit estimates, share price)

Jan 11 (Reuters) - Apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co on Monday forecast holiday-quarter net sales to decline between 5% and 7%, as strong online demand was not enough to cushion the blow from temporary store closures and COVID-19 restrictions.

The company, which owns the Hollister apparel brand, had previously estimated net sales to decline between 5% and 10% for the quarter, with analysts expecting a 5.5% fall, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Abercrombie also said it expected fourth-quarter gross profit rate to be up at least 130 basis points, compared to last year’s 58.2%, as it discounted less.

Online demand for activewear and loungewear has soared since the start of the lockdowns, but in-store sales have taken a hit as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in North America and major European markets forced governments to reintroduce certain restrictions.

Abercrombie’s shares rose about 1% to $23.34 in extended trading. (Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Shounak Dasgupta)

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