May 09, 2013
Abercrombie CEO: Only "Cool Kids" Need Browse Here
Posted by Christine Hurt
I seem to get most of my current news from seeing what my FB friends rant about, and today it is definitely some 2006 remarks by Mike Jeffries, CEO and Chairman of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which have been repeated recently by Robin Lewis, author of a 2010 book The New Rules of Retail.  Lewis quotes Jeffries to explain why A&F doesn't have women's clothing in size "XL" or larger.  The full 2006 Salon piece is here; the following money-quote has gone viral:
"That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that. In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either."

Ok. Let's acknowledge that the "membership has its privileges" marketing model has been successful.  But there are a lot more average kids than "cool and popular kids," so your model has to be to sell to a larger bubble of people who wish they were the "cool and popular kids."  "Wear our clothes and be popular" is a pretty good model.  Now, A&F seems successful, so they probably sell plenty of clothes without my advice.  (Here we can see it's stock price has done well this year, though the past 5 seem to have been tough.)  Will these viral comments create a backlash for the store (which seems to have weathered other uproars in the past)?

A lot of the comments I see on FB start with "I've never been in an Abercrombie, but now I never will."  Hmmm.  That doesn't seem like a death knell.  There is no Abercrombie in Champaign, so my teenager has no A&F clothes, but we do have a Hollister, which is a division of A&F.  I think this may be a teachable moment in our house, anyway.

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