Abercrombie & Fitch’s Executive Chairman to Step Down

A shopper with an Abercrombie & Fitch bag near Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in February 2017.

Longtime retail executive Arthur Martinez is stepping down as executive chairman of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. , the company said Monday.

Mr. Martinez, who will relinquish his post next month, is a leading figure at the teen apparel retailer, particularly during a more than two-year stretch when the company was without a chief executive.

The company said board member Terry Burman will become nonexecutive chairman.

Retailers, especially those catering to teens, have been hit hard by declining mall traffic, changing tastes and competition from fast-fashion companies like H&M and Zara.

Mr. Martinez, 78 years old, helped fill the void when Mike Jeffries, the modern-day founder of the brand who created its cult following among teens, left the company in 2014 after leading it since 1992. Mr. Jeffries was forced out amid shrinking sales and shareholder dissatisfaction. In February 2017 the company promoted Fran Horowitz to the CEO post.

Mr. Martinez was credited in the 1990s for a dramatic turnaround at Sears while serving as CEO, when he closed stores and returned the company to profitability.

Mr. Burman, who is 72, and Mr. Martinez joined Abercrombie’s board in 2014.

Abercrombie also Monday said it was pleased with its holiday shopping-season performance. The company expects fourth-quarter comparable sales to increase by a high single-digit percentage, compared with its previous guidance of a low single-digit percentage improvement.

The company will release its full fourth-quarter results March 7.

Shares, which have risen 67% in the past 12 months, rose 3.9% to $20.70 in premarket trading.

Write to Austen Hufford at austen.hufford@wsj.com

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