Though many might have forgotten about the brand entirely, Abercrombie & Fitch still has a poor image in some consumers’ eyes. Three years ago, then-CEO Mike Jeffries came under fire for comments about the types of customers he wanted to attract; namely, he stated that he wanted to “market to cool, good-looking people” and that he didn’t cater to “anyone other than that.” Needless to say, that exchange did not go over well with the public, and Jeffries stepped down shortly after.
Unfortunately for the brand, Jeffries was not the only problem with its image. Most still associate Abercrombie with topless models, dimly lit stores, obnoxious, thumping music, overbearingly pungent cologne, and general snobbery and exclusivity. While its styles might have been popular in the past, recent trends have left the company’s played-out aesthetic in the dust.
It looks like the marketing team at Abercrombie is finally responding. This year, and especially this part month in preparation for the holidays, Abercrombie & Fitch has undergone a radical rebranding process. The shirtless in-store models are gone, as are the hypersexualized catalogs. A quick visit to the renovated website shows the company’s desire to shed its troubled past. The front page encourages customers to “see the new A&F” and advertises its clothing as “enduring style, always evolving.”
Evolve it certainly has—many of the brand’s new offerings are nearly unrecognizable as Abercrombie products. While some products still sport the infamous moose logo and brand name lettering, there is an abundance of strikingly understated pieces. A handful of sweatshirts only feature branding in the form of a small initial patch at the hem. Thick knit sweaters and cardigans show no logos at all.
Under the heading “Our favorite brands,” the site advertises a whole host of other brands that can be purchased through Abercrombie’s webstore. The selection also demonstrates how the image is shifting. Customers can browse shoes by Converse, a real American classic that shows how Abercrombie is trying to push itself as an established red, white, and blue business. Also available are New Balance sneakers, whose chunky silhouettes have become very popular in recent years and which lend Abercrombie a bit of quirkiness.
Abercrombie’s partnership with Woolrich makes the strongest statement, however. The nearly 200-year-old brand is a perfect example of a rugged, timeless, and utilitarian brand that keeps customers hooked year after year. That sort of history is relevant to the century-old Abercrombie as well; at the time of its founding, the company sold hunting and fishing supplies, later branching out into sporting goods. Woolrich was one of the brands carried in the original Abercrombie store, and is a testament to a surprisingly deep past that has only recently been tarnished.
Whether or not these efforts will be able to save a sinking ship remains to be seen, but, if nothing else, they are a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is simply a speed bump in the company’s history; it has remade itself before, and it is very possible that it will be able to remake itself again.
Do you think these measures are enough to turn around Abercrombie & Fitch? Let’s hear about it here or on Twitter @BillChangNY