A favourite brand in the average Loughborough student’s wardrobe, Abercrombie and Fitch, it seems is heading for a fall!

In recent years, American brand Abercrombie & Fitch has experienced a big downfall, both within the media and in terms of profit. Many articles appeared in the media stating their decreasing sales and plans to close the stores. The new official claims appeared to be saying that the Ohio-based teen retailer, founded in 1892 by two college friends, plan to close 180 of its U.S. stores by 2015. Even in Europe, the London and Milan flagship stores reported a drop in sales.

So what are the reasons for the brand, which counted college students as their main clientele, underperforming in recent years?

Without a doubt one of the most damaging factors to Abercrombie is their hiring politics, which has been widely criticised by the American and global media. The brand markets itself as a classic All-American image. Calling their employees models instead of sales assistants was the first hit in the massive backlash when it showed that the hiring process is based on looks, not skills and attributes.

Whilst the discriminating hiring process has been known for a while, it wasn’t until previous employees were filing lawsuits that the company really came under fire. It was stated that some Hispanic, Asian and Black applicants were never given positions on the sales floor, and were shunned to the back rooms. One of the most covered stories came to light in 2009 when a previous employee with a prosthetic arm was sent to work in the stock room because her disability didn’t fit the public image.

As previously stated the brand prides itself on being All-American, yet the half naked images in store and featured on carrier bags suggests otherwise. The negative press received in regards to advertising usually features highly sexual images. Although, the sexualized ads and topless male sales assistants, sorry ‘models’, might appeal to the teenagers, it is far from the hit with their parents and some authorities. Many of Abercrombie’s advertising campaigns were labelled borderline pornographic and authorities such as The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families launched boycotts against the company, asking them to discontinue campaigns, which were seen as causing harm to children and young people’s health and well-being.

As well as offending some parents, A&F have been seen as isolating and offending different cultures and races. Asian customers, particularly those in the US were extremely offended by a line of t-shirts, which featured crude Asian stereotypes, such as slanted eyes and cone shaped hats. Although the designs were taken out of the stores, Asian groups have since encouraged people to boycott the company.

Abercrombie and Fitch have always been renowned for selling the American Ivy League images to their customers. However, the brand charges between £78-120 for a pair of male jeans and on average £58 for a polo t-shirt, and has been reminded that their market is teenagers and young people who are mainly financially dependent on their parents, and selling prices do not reflect this. Furthermore, similar t-shirts and jeans designs have been running for years making customers look elsewhere for brands that offer something new every season.

Evidently, shirtless models no longer guarantee massive profits in a cutthroat industry where competition is fierce. With all the negative publicity received in the past years, it is no surprise that Abercrombie is losing its X-factor, but whether they can retain their title as one of the most sought after brands around…we’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think? Still love Abercrombie and Fitch? Would the bad press stop you from buying the brand? Comment below or find us on Twitter @labelonline


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