Abercrombie & Fitch is no longer for sale, sending stock plunging to 17-year low

Is the mall dead?
Is the mall dead?

Abercrombie & Fitch has decided that it no longer wants to shop itself. The teen apparel retailer said Monday it has ended discussions about a possible sale. It was only two months ago that the company had put itself on the shopping block.

Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) plunged nearly 20% in early trading on the news to their lowest levels since mid-2000. The stock is now down almost 90% from the all-time highs it hit in 2007.

But A&F chairman Arthur Martinez said in a press release that the retailer "determined that the best path to enhance value for stockholders is the rigorous execution of our business plan."

He noted that the company's Hollister brand was showing momentum and that there were strategies in place to revitalize the core A&F brand.

Wall Street remains understandably skeptical. Shoppers have largely stayed away from the retailer.

Sales have been sluggish for years. The company reported another quarterly loss in late May and analysts expect even more red ink for all of this fiscal year as well as next.

New CEO Fran Horowitz, who was promoted from chief merchandising officer to the top spot in February, has taken steps to get the company back on track. But it's been an uphill battle.

Former CEO Mike Jeffries left the company in December 2014 after a series of controversies. Jeffries made remarks about only wanting "cool, good-looking people" to wear his company's clothes.

A&F was also criticized by many parents for overly sexual imagery in its marketing, with models that appeared to be very young, wearing suggestive (and little) clothing in its catalog and stores.

And an ex-pilot for the company-owned Gulfstream jet (which has since been sold) filed an age discrimination suit against A&F a few years ago. The pilot claimed Jeffries had a manual that listed dress requirements for male models working on the plane.

Related: Nightmare continues for Abercrombie & Fitch

The retailer enjoyed a brief turnaround after Jeffries left and Martinez, who led Sears (SHLD) before that once-iconic company went into its own tailspin, took over as chairman.

Under Martinez, the retailer de-emphasized much of the logo-based apparel that were once hugely popular at A&F and Hollister.

But A&F's apparel no longer stands out in the crowded field of teen fashion. A&F and many other mall stalwarts have struggled to compete against the new kings of retail -- fast fashion companies like Zara, H&M and Uniqlo.

Now A&F has to convince skeptical investors that it can lure back young consumers. It won't be an easy task. The American mall has been turning into a graveyard, especially for fashion retailers.

True Religion, Wet Seal, American Apparel and Aeropostale (AROPQ) have all filed for bankruptcy recently. Gap (GPS), which also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic, is still trying to turn its fortunes around. J.Crew has announced layoffs. Bebe (BEBE) is closing shop.

And apparel companies also face a big threat from Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) -- which has been bolstering its own line of clothing -- as well as Walmart (WMT), which has recently acquired several trendy online fashion retailers.

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