Is this a good strategy? Only time will tell. In a sense, however, it is a riskier strategy, as short-term earnings are sacrificed in exchange for a future benefit of uncertain magnitude. Same-store sales are down a staggering 30% year over year, as consumer preferences have shifted towards cheaper brands. Despite the large sales drop, inventories are running some 15% above what they were at this time last year, which is undoubtedly contributing to the fact that the company has had to increase its debt load from $43 million one year ago to its current level of $157 million.
But the company appears poised to be able to weather the economic storm. ANF is still profitable despite the huge drop in sales thanks to its massive gross margins: buying apparel items manufactured in Asia and South America and selling them in North America for many times their cost has proven very fruitful for many companies which appeal to the fashion-conscious, and that's not likely to change.
There are risks to be aware of, however. If the recession deepens, ANF's cost structure could prove inflexible. While we have seen that even healthy retailers have been able to renegotiate their leases lower, the sheer magnitude of ANF's future lease obligations ($2.8 billion, larger than the company's market cap!) cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, the company does have room to reduce prices and increase short-term profits should this happen.