Abercrombie & Fitch getting what it deserves

By Assistant Campus Editor

After 10 miserable months of working at Hollister, where I dealt with overbearing elitist managers, a stringent dress code that didn’t even allow me to paint my nails and sparse hours, I am spitefully satisfied that parent company Abercrombie & Fitch is tanking.

After the CEO of the infamous clothing franchise made offensive comments about people who do not fit its unrealistic beauty standards, the public responded critically with protests that caused consumers to boycott the brand for good, ultimately leading to a significant loss in sales, forcing the teen empire to dramatically lower its ridiculously high prices. Ironically, a company once idolized by teens across America is now finding itself one of the most hated clothing retailers in the country—a much-deserved fate after decades of discriminating and ostracizing the majority of retail consumers.

Former CEO Mike Jeffries announced Feb. 26 that the company’s quarterly profit fell 58 percent from November 2013 to February 2014 compared to the same period last year, and to avoid going bankrupt, the brand would reduce prices to compete with less expensive retailers such as H&M and Forever 21.

In a 2006 interview with online magazine Salon.com, Jeffries foolishly tried to justify not selling extra-large sizes by stating that the brand does not market to anyone who is not good looking. This 2006 interview somehow slipped under the radar, but Business Insider addressed the comments last summer, and they went viral.

“We want to market to cool, good-looking people,” Jeffries told Salon. “We don’t market to anyone other than that. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Once Jeffries’ comments hit news outlets and were plastered across everyone’s Facebook news feeds, it became hard to ignore Jeffries’ warped views on body image. Most of Abercrombie’s teen audience has Facebook accounts, where articles and petitions detailing Jeffries’ comments quickly circulated, putting Abercrombie’s spectacular demise in motion.

Once other Abercrombie executives realized Jeffries was steadily weakening the brand’s image, the company split his CEO position—a title he held for 16 years—giving him the less powerful position of chief executive, and naming Arthur Martinez nonexecutive chairman, according to a Jan. 28 press release—a wise reaction to Jeffries’ ignorant and derogatory comments.

Retailers should beware of Abercrombie’s example. Jeffries may have thought the company was invincible, but like other brands that in recent years have made offensive, exclusionary remarks, consumers noticed and reacted.

Protests broke out against Abercrombie stores across the country in May 2013. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders demonstrated outside Water Tower Place on North Michigan Avenue to protest Abercrombie’s discrimination against plus-size individuals.

Chip Wilson, founder of popular yoga wear brand Lululemon, made an insulting claim that some women—implicitly overweight women—are not meant to wear yoga pants. In a Nov. 8 Bloomberg TV interview about product defects, Wilson was asked why the spandex pants were see-through on some figures to which he replied, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it.”

Almost immediately, a vitriolic outburst of criticism against Lululemon broke out, accusing Wilson of fat-shaming and blaming the flaws of his company’s pants on the women who wear them. Wilson apologized and resigned, according to a Dec. 9 company press release.

Abercrombie and Hollister used to be staples in adolescent closets, but logo tees and preppy polo shirts have gradually been going out of style. Although the brand has tried to keep up with changing trends, consumers increasingly frequent retailers such as Forever 21 and H&M, which are more responsive to consumers, less expensive and offer plus-size options.

Abercrombie, on the other hand, is outdated, overpriced and impractical. If the company wants to save itself, it needs to better understand its market and respond to consumer demand, not create an impossible image and expect shoppers to flock to it. Consumers can and should take a stand against unethical companies because their success depends on our willingness to support them.