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Aeropostale 1Q Profit Down 64% On Weak Sales; 2Q View Downbeat

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Aeropostale Inc.'s (ARO) fiscal first-quarter profit dropped 64% on weak growth in sales and margins as the teen apparel retailer issued a much lower-than-expected forecast for the current quarter. Looking ahead to the second quarter, the company projected a per-share profit of 11 cents to 16 cents share, well below the estimate of 27 cents a share from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. "Based on current business trends and uncertainty surrounding the retail environment in the back-half of the year," Aeropostale said it "is not reiterating or providing an update to its previously issued full year guidance." Shares fell 8.6% after-hours to $19.50 Thursday. The stock had been down 20% over the past three months through the close after the company's outlook revision earlier this month sent shares falling. Unlike other mall-based retail chains, Aeropostale posted strong results throughout the recession by gaining market share as a lower-price alternative to rivals such as Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEO). It has faced stiffer competition in recent months as more retailers discount their goods to court shoppers. Abercrombie on Wednesday said it swung to a fiscal first-quarter profit as margins improved on more expensive sales abroad. "Our outlook for the second quarter reflects our plans to aggressively clear through spring inventories to position ourselves appropriately for the important back to school selling season," Aeropostale Chief Executive Thomas P. Johnson said. "Our goals for the remainder of the year remain very clear--regain balance and clarity in our merchandise assortments, mitigate industry wide cost increases, and manage our cost structure conservatively and carefully." For the quarter ended April 30, Aeropostale posted a profit of $16.4 million, or 20 cents a share, down from $45.4 million, or 48 cents a share, a year earlier. The company two weeks ago slashed its already-downbeat earnings guidance to about 20 cents a share, citing the lower-than-expected sales. Gross margin dropped to 29.1% from 39.4%. Aeropostale also previously reported that net sales increased 1% to $469.2 million, below the $478 million estimate at the time from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Same-store sales dropped 7% after rising 8% last year. -By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909;

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