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Retailer Spotlight – Abercrombie & Fitch

 

Posted At: 25 February 2016 13:42 PM
Related Categories: Retail, Retailers

 

Following the news that Abercrombie & Fitch has been ranked as America’s most hated retailer according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), FSP takes a look back at what they may have done to deserve this title.

Although widely credited with transforming the brand in the 1990s, former CEO Mike Jeffries – who exited Abercrombie & Fitch in December 2014 amid falling sales and profits – faced widespread criticism for controversial statements relating to Abercrombie's brand. This included comments in which he indicated the retailer's clothes should only be worn by thin and attractive people, and a court case that involved a Muslim woman who believed she was denied a job at the retailer because of her head scarf. One employee pursued legal action against Abercrombie & Fitch after accusing it of banishing her to the stock room because she was an amputee.

These things, combined with Abercrombie’s famous practice of using topless models at events and store openings for both it and its sister brand Hollister, and the onslaught of rivals such as American Eagle and Forever 21, lead to young, fashion-conscious consumers jumping ship and heading elsewhere to spend their money.

Having such a controversial policy of how its staff looked generated negative headlines for Abercrombie & Fitch, so it came as no surprise that six months after Jeffries departed, the brand announced a new direction in which it would no longer hire store staff based on “body type or physical attractiveness” as it put an end to its “sexualised marketing”. As part of the changes, the company has overhauled its hiring policy to hire “nice, smart, optimistic people [with a] strong work ethic” who can deliver great customer service. A new management team was put in place and emphasis was placed on improving the customer experience.

Although sales and profits are beginning to improve at Abercrombie & Fitch, it’s not really a surprise that consumers shun the brand based on its past. And by the sounds of things, with its recent ranking in America that saw Abercrombie & Fitch attain a low number of 65 – almost 10 points below the entire sector’s overall score – concerning recent shopping experiences, it seems that consumers are not too hopeful about the future of this once iconic brand.

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The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinion of the author and are not intended as statements of fact and do not represent the view of SnapShop or Pragma in any way.

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