Since the spring of 2013, Abercrombie & Fitch has been in major trouble. After a Business Insider article came out and revealed the despicable body-shaming the company had been a part of, the brand has been suffering in a big way – and it looks like they’re finally going to attempt to change the way they do things in an effort to stay relevant. In short, they’ll be offering larger sizes to consumers. This is a huge improvement after what the company recently went through.
In case you need a refresher, here goes: this past May, I filled you guys in on the gross things Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries had been saying. Basically, he has never been interested in letting anyone who is over a size 10 shop in his stores. Jeffries said a few awful, body-shaming statements, like, “…we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t want to market to anyone other than that.” He also made it a point of stressing that he didn’t care that he was alienating a huge group of people shopping in his stores by saying, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes] and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Clearly, Jeffries thought that Abercrombie & Fitch was a strong enough brand that he could make statements like these without facing backlash. But he was so, so wrong. Once he was outed as a jerk who only cares about superficial things, like the size clothing people wear or what they look like, people got angry. They got so angry that they stopped shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch and sales plummeted. In the past year alone, Abercrombie’s shares lost about 30 percent of their value.
In an obvious attempt to win back customers, Abercrombie has made the decision to start offering sizes larger than a 10 and large (and if you’ve ever seen an A&F large, well… you know it’s not a legit large). This is really, really surprising, since Jeffries never once apologized for his comments, even when people were ripping the brand apart. Instead, he stated on the company Facebook page that, “A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets it’s marketing at a particular segment of customers.” He basically was like, sorry, not sorry!
Jeffries obviously lost in his fight to be super “exclusionary.” The decision to offer larger sizes comes months later, after sales drastically dropped and A&F tried to win customers back in other ways, like releasing “cute” parody videos like this one and marking clothing down to cheaper prices. They’ll also be offering shoes other accessories for next year’s back-to-school season. Hollister stores, owned by the same people, will be revamped – hopefully in a way that allows consumers to actually see the products they are trying to buy when shopping.
Is this a step in the right direction? Absolutely. It’s excellent progress that the outrage sparked from Jeffrie’s disgusting comments was enough to make A&F do something they pledged they would never do. But is this going to work? Eh, I’m not sure. Right now, Abercrombie is like your lame ex who rejected you for someone else and then only wanted you back when that someone else rejected them. In other words: it may be too little, too late.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Abercrombie is expanding their size options so that everyone can enjoy their clothing if that’s what they want. But I’m hesitant about whether or not it’s going to make a big difference. For one thing, people are pretty fed up with Abercrombie. Between the body-shaming and the accusations of racism from a few years ago, I think most consumers gave up on the brand a long time ago. This store does not have a good name or reputation, which is difficult to erase just by being like, “FINE. We’ll do it so we get money, okay?!”
For another thing, Abercrombie has some stiff competition. I don’t know if you’ve ever shopped there, but the store is expensive – it’s difficult to find items under $50 unless they’re on sale… most items are closer to the $100 mark. Some of the biggest stores out there right now are Forever 21, H&M and Target, where you can get an entire outfit, accessories included for under $50. See what I mean? Also, not for nothing, but Jeffries never even apologized! People who remember what he said won’t forget that either.
As Stifel Research analyst Richard Jaffe stated, “While the company is playing good defense by cutting expenses, this does little to revitalize what we believe is to be a stale brand.” In the end, it’s good that Abercrombie & Fitch is trying to be more diverse, but their efforts just might not be good enough.
Do you shop at Abercrombie & Fitch? Will you start once they start offering larger sizes? Does this make you forgive them for their comments before? Tell us in the comments.