Quick Takes – Abercrombie & Fitch

Private Companies and Consumers Are Entitled to Their Own Decisions

Abercrombie & Fitch is sparking debate for openly targeting the “attractive all-American” kids, as CEO Mike Jeffries put it. Despite its negative message about body image and appearance, A&F is entitled to its own views because it is a private enterprise. Shoppers opposed to the retailer’s stance can easily choose to shop elsewhere instead of trying to “better” a company that is firm in its judgments.

A&F has carefully built up its public image over the years, and if the shirtless men with six packs outside of its stores aren’t enough indication, the company is proud of it. A&F is a manifestation of Jeffries’ vision of the quintessential American youth: cool, fit and beautiful. This viewpoint may not be nice or politically correct, but in line with the First Amendment, Jeffries has every right to his viewpoints as it does not directly harm others. 

Although this stance may influence self-consciousness about body image, A&F is certainly not the first corporation to do so. In her film “Killing Us Softly 3,” Jean Kilbourne points out how the entire entertainment industry has created preconceived notions about what is considered beauty and what the right look is. Almost every company, ranging from Urban Outfitters to Banana Republic, has models who portray the type of people it wants to wear its clothing. A&F is simply more vocal than other companies about its opinion.

The retailer may be promoting negative perceptions about ideal body weights, but critics should remember that shopping at A&F is a choice, not an obligation. 

— Sharon Lay
Staff Writer

Abercrombie Should Be More Inclusive by Offering Larger Sizes to Customers

For over a decade, Abercrombie & Fitch has fostered a policy to discriminate against people who do not maintain their narrow-minded definition of a classic American. The company should follow the lead of stores like Old Navy and Forever 21, which market to the same age demographic yet still include larger sizes to accommodate the average-sized consumer.

A&F alienates plus-sized individuals by only offering waist sizes up to 10 for women and 34 for men. The average sized-woman and man is, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the market research firm Mintel, a size 14 and 44 respectively. Carrying only these size ranges caters to only 36 percent of the American population. 

This exclusionary choice is not only wrong because it promotes and propagates an unrealistic body image, but is also a poor marketing technique. According to the May 2013 Forbes.com article “Why Floundering Abercrombie Should Reconsider Snubbing the Full-Figured Set,” A&F has been losing popularity and shares to its more inclusive competitors H&M and American Eagle, which offer women’s sizes up to 16 and 18 respectively. H&M also has a plus-size line that offers sizes 14–24. Ignoring this demographic means ignoring the $13.9 billion dollars plus-sized consumers spent this year.

CEO Mike Jeffries’ bigoted comments estrange most Americans and suggest that only thin and ripped people are “sexy” and attractive. Including larger sizes would be the first step in redefining A&F’s image away from outdated, sexualized ideals of beauty, to an image that instead promotes healthy, active lifestyles. 

— Alia Bales
Staff Writer

Exclusive Marketing Strategy Is What Makes A&F Popular and Successful

Those trying on Abercrombie & Fitch clothes for the first time have probably asked themselves why the company doesn’t carry larger sizes. A&F offers limited sizes, but this is a marketing strategy that brings the retailer its current popularity.

A&F uses narrow focus groups to its advantage. John Hegarty, co-founder of British marketing agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, claims that profitable brands act as “filters” that both attract and exclude consumers. A&F publicly markets to the so-called “good-looking” crowd, but this is positive from a financial standpoint because A&F is reaching its intended audience.  

CEO Mike Jeffries wants certain people to be seen sporting his clothes in order to attract more people from that subset of the population to his stores. In turn, this makes customers feel exclusive and confident when they wear the brand. Setting forth the reputation of a company’s ideal consumers helps buyers decide whether that brand is relevant to them.

A&F may discriminate on the basis of clothing size, but high-end designer brands also do so on the basis of wealth. Rolls Royce, Louis Vuitton and other successful brands are exclusionary as their products are not easily affordable to the average consumer. No one seems to rebuke these brands, so it is unfair that A&F is being singled out for its exclusivity. 

Just like the way consumers pick and choose the products they like, businesses like A&F also have set audiences in mind. Jeffries doesn’t necessarily disdain those outside his target demographic — it’s all in the name of marketing.

— Shannon Kang
Staff Writer

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