Magazine article Marketing

Abercrombie & Fitch

Magazine article Marketing

Abercrombie & Fitch

Article excerpt

Sales are down and an ex-staffer has won an unlawful harrassment case against it.

Abercrombie & Fitch, the face of preppy America, famous for its vapid obsession with 'beautiful people', has received some ugly press of late.

Last week the retailer was ordered to pay pounds 8000 to a former member of staff at its Savile Row store. The woman, who uses a prosthetic arm, said she resigned after being forced to work in the shop's store room because she violated Abercrombie & Fitch's 'look policy'.

This stipulates that all employees 'represent Abercrombie & Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with the company's brand', and states that staff should 'look great while exhibiting individuality'. Workers must wear a 'clean, natural, classic hairstyle' and have nails which extend 'no more than a quarter-inch'.

The employment tribunal found the retailer guilty of not complying with employment law in the manner in which it dealt with her case and ruled that she had been wrongly dismissed.

While the company was cleared of disability discrimination, there are other reasons why it has attracted unfavourable headlines. In the year to July, its global net sales declined by 23%, feeding speculation that the chain has merely dipped its toe in the UK market and might not progress much further in this country or beyond.

So what does Abercrombie & Fitch need to do to be beautiful again? We asked Archibald Ingall Stretton creative partner Steve Stretton, who has worked on Levi's, and Nick Gray, managing director of Live & Breathe and a former marketing director at Ben Sherman.

DIAGNOSIS

- Two industry experts suggest what Abercrombie & Fitch should do now

STEVE STRETTON, CREATIVE PARTNER, ARCHIBALD INGALL STRETTON

When a brand is defined by its staff's jawlines, it's hard to change. For 10 years now, Abercrombie & Fitch has meant beautiful people, hard bodies, perfect skin, white teeth, loud music, dark stores ... oh, and clothes.

Very expensive, baggy, logo-heavy clothes. Clothes that, 10 years ago, I really liked. Liked enough to nearly miss a flight back from New York as I filled those big black-and-white carrier bags.

Those clothes are on their last legs now and I'm not sure about replacing them, for various reasons.

The first one being, I'm 10 years older and the staff are 10 years younger. But that's not really their fault. The second reason is that, in the superficial world of fashion, 10 years is a hell of a long time. Everybody knows the logo and lots of people wear it - maybe too many. Ubiquity is the enemy of originality. …

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