The Culture Beat: Grow Up Abercrombie

Abercrombie & Fitch, the iconic teen retailer known for its racy campaigns and cult following, seems to have a lot less customers these days. A variety of factors have contributed to the company’s plunging popularity; weak international markets, premium pricing, and changes in clothing preferences amongst the company’s target demographic. But the Ohio-based retailer woes began when the recession started four years ago. The A&F counter-strategy seems to have involved opening stores overseas where demand was strong enough to mask falling sales at home. Some observers may call that move desperate and in our opinion; it was. What Abercrombie didn’t predict was the high-level of economic volatility around the globe that ensued.

While management has indicated a shift in shortening the development pipeline to pursue fashion trends, it has no desire to make changes to the design team or overall look. We believe this thinking will only compound Abercrombie’s issues.  Essentially, customers are rejecting the uniform look that A&F provides. The company was a hit with consumers because the brand was appealing and it was the “in thing.”  Nobody ever went to Abercrombie because they provided great fashion pieces. Have you been ever to make a clear-cut distinction between their clothing each season?  

A&F lacks versatile clothing options that can be worn with most outfits. Smaller logos and basic staples such as sports blazers or tweed jackets with a hint of Abercrombie style may win people back. In our opinion, the marketing will also have to mature because it lacks innocence and honesty. You can still have “racy” photographs, but ensure some level of elegance is retained.  The billboards evoke the same thing they did years ago; attractive models with ultra-ripped bodies sporting little-to-no clothing. But it is time for the models to cover themselves up or step aside.

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