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.

Washingtonians: Obsessed with Money, Power, and Education?

JFK once said “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” I have grown up in this area for the majority of my life, and I recall fond memories of my childhood. Families and children gathering together in neighborhoods. Vacant roads. People leading a laid-back lifestyle. Overall, there was a sense of being content with life. Fancy that. We had something in common with those socialistic Europeans. You know. The ones that take too many vacations in a year.

But times change, and I no longer recognize my hometown. Over the last ten years, people have no desire to know their neighbors or get together as they once did. Casual meetings are now replaced with fixed appointments. Our roads are engulfed in endless traffic. On-going construction with no practical solutions or quick remedies in sight have not eased our suffering. The once renowned transportation system is overloaded and under-funded. Education, power, and money are on the agenda of all the new and soulless predators engulfing this town. New-Yorkers work hard and play hard. Washingtonians work hard, but have no time to play. If it’s not texting on the blackberry, discussing how to rip-off the government, then it’s the iPhone that keeps them occupied. It would be unfair to say people here don’t have manners. They just have no time to start a conversation. See, that takes an effort. And all the type-a individuals want to use their energy on getting more educated, obtaining a higher paying job, and volunteering themselves till the end of time. I suggest trying the Japanese art of origami. Maybe these folks can learn how to fold themselves to death.

DC has spent the last ten years transforming itself. Desperately trying to nudge its way into the ranks of a true world capital along side New-York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. But I think we need to slow down, and remember who we are. While change and progress are good, that should never involve surrendering our identity of being a city of  “Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”

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The Rundown…

Culture: DC is fifth on the “bohemian index”, a list of uber-creative cities. Richard Florida, author of The Creative Class and founder of the Creative Class Group, believes San-Antonio is the most non-bohemian city.

More Culture: Actor Laurence Fishburne brings “Thurgood”  to life.

Transport: Zipcar plans to go public as a way to pay down its debt.

Design: Massimo Vignelli, who designed the original signs on the Metro system, thinks they have gotten too cluttered.

Media: Tony Burman, head of Al Jazeera-English, claims BBC offers a “British perspective of the world.” Interesting, but the BBC is the single most quoted news source by US bloggers, says a Pew report.

Funny and Random: The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, also known as the Deficit Commission, has run out of money.

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The Rundown

The Rundown…a compilation of what we’re following.

Dining: The British sandwich chain Pret A Manger will open a second location in DC on F street. Anticipated opening date of mid-may. Global jetsetting restaurant, Buddhar Bar, will open its doors on May 10th. Here’s a preview of the latter. Nando’s Peri Peri continues with its own expansion plan into Silver Spring and Annapolis, MD.

Travel: OpenSkies, an all business-class airline, started service from its base at Paris-Orly to Washington Dulles.

Culture: Embassies from the European Union will host an open-house day on Saturday, May 8th.

Overseas: Chipotle will open its first outlet in London’s this month.