Teen clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch saw sales fall a whopping 17% in the first quarter of this year. While the company had warned shareholders that this year would be rough, numbers this low surprised the company itself, causing them to close several stores to tighten profit margins and lower the profit forecast for the rest of the year.
This drop in sales happens to coincide with the resurfacing of CEO Mike Jeffries's 2006 media remarks on the brand's "exclusionary" strategy. He stated that Abercrombie only wants "cool and popular kids" to wear their clothing. What does cool and popular look like? Just take a glance through some of Abercrombie's (overly sexualized) ads:
Think you might be "cool" for your sense of humor or your sports skills? Think again. Abercrombie doesn’t think you're cool unless you're white, upper-class, heterosexual, conventionally attractive, and impossibly thin. This last parameter really only applies to women, as the company stocks XL and XXL in men's clothing but only up to a size 10 in women's. Because big men are acceptable, but big women are an abomination.
And what's more, if you don't fit these standards already, you never will. There are "a lot of people [who] don’t belong in our clothes, and they can't belong," Jeffries declared.
But don't worry. There are a lot of stores that would love to have you. One of Abercrombie's biggest competitors, H&M, has no problem with inclusiveness. In fact, H&M uses size 12 mannequins in stores and just recently featured a plus-size model as the face of their beachware collection — with absolutely no fanfare. There were no press releases or media statements, just the fact that if you go to their homepage, the first image you will see is a woman with curves.
Abercrombie has issued several apologies, mostly because the first one by the company CEO was a non-apology (he does regret that his words were "interpreted in a manner that has caused offense," but not the words themselves). Since then, activists and protestors have gotten creative in their outrage, from posting pictures of their (uncool) selves in A&F ad poses to #FitchTheHomeless, a campaign which centers around handing out Abercrombie clothing to the homeless. Most recently, A&F has also agreed to support "anti-bullying" efforts in addition to considering diversity as a potential company value.
To be fair, Abercrombie's sales numbers were on the decline before the CEO's comments resurfaced. Abercrombie has blamed everything from inventory shortages to teens getting smaller allowances, but many are speculating that the company's outdated view on fashion (and most everything else) is finally catching up with it.