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NEW ALBANY, OH-Abercrombie & Fitch Co. will focus much of its growth in 2009 outside the US, executives said during the company’s fourth-quarter conference call.

While the company plans 10 new openings among its various brands across the country because of existing commitments, its leasing focus is now on expanding Hollister and other brands in Europe, as real estate conditions permit.

“We are not bullish on US malls at this point,” said Mike Jeffries, CEO and chairman. “We are very bullish on our international potential. We’re looking at each brand in terms of its potential internationally. That is the perceived growth vehicle for this company.”

Domestically, the company plans a Hollister Co. flagship in SoHo, four additional Hollister units, two abercrombie stores, two Gilly Hicks units, and one outlet store. International plans this year include opening two Hollister mall-based stores in the United Kingdom, one abercrombie store in Canada, and up to 10 more Hollisters in Europe.

In addition, the company is opening flagships for Abercrombie & Fitch and abercrombie in Milan, and Abercrombie & Fitch in Tokyo. Plans now call for the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship in Copenhagen and the abercrombie flagship in New York to open in 2010.

“Our focus is going to be on getting the best possible deals done, not getting the maximum possible deals,” said Jonathan Ramsden, executive vp and CFO.

For the quarter, total company net sales were $998 million, down 19% from last year. Comparable store sales decreased 25%. By brand, Abercrombie & Fitch comp-store sales decreased 23%; abercrombie comps decreased 30%; Hollister Co. comps dropped 25%; and RUEHL comps declined 25%. Net income was $68.4 million, compared with $216.8 million the prior year.

For the fiscal year, the company reported sales of $3.54 billion, down 6% from the previous year. Comparable store sales decreased 13%. The net income was $272.3 million, down from earnings of $475.7 million the previous year.

At the end of January, Abercrombie & Fitch operated 352 Abercrombie & Fitch stores, 210 abercrombie stores, 507 Hollister Co. stores, 28 RUEHL stores and 14 Gilly Hicks stores in the United States.

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