Abercrombie & Fitch: torn denim hot pants, naked ad campaigns, bare chested boys beckoning from its store doors. Abercrombie & Fitch has less to do with clothing, more to do with showing bodies — teen bodies specifically. It's the best possible business strategy for a retailer whose actual product is mediocre: sell to young people, make it about sex.
Abercrombie exploits the dumbest aspects of teen and college-aged social life, stoking the prurience (no one is more obsessed with sex than someone that's never had it), insecurity and drive to conformity which are the hallmarks of conventional American adolescence. (Another group the company exploits: the Filipino factory workers who manufacture its clothing; in 2010, Abercrombie made the International Labor Rights Forum's Sweatshop Hall of Shame.)
There are many reasons to boycott Abercrombie, but here's one that's getting a lot of attention right now: Robin Lewis, who co-wrote the well-received book, The New Rules of Retail, recently told the website Business Insider (BI) that the reason the company doesn't carry plus-size clothing is because the CEO, Mike Jeffries, "doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people. He doesn't want his core customers to see people who aren't as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they're one of the 'cool kids.'"
As BI notes, Abercrombie doesn't sell women's pants above a size 10 (or 12, sometimes), which is unusual for its competitive set: H&M and American Eagle, also teen favorites, have options going all the way up to size 16 and 18 respectively. H&M just launched a seperate plus-size line, which includes sizes up to 24. To top it all off, the Swedish brand recently made the blog rounds after it ran photos showcasing its standard swimwear collection on a size 12 model, without sending out a press release or including any self-congratulatory fanfare on the site itself.
Anyone that follows luxury fashion understands the appeal of exclusivity, but it also makes business sense that mass market brands would want many shoppers (i.e. the masses) to to buy their stuff. Abercrombie is doing the opposite — trying to keep people out so that the 'cool kids' can feel good about themselves for 'fitting in' to the brand's clothing. Sadly, that equation seems to be working for them: in February, the company posted 11% revenue growth for the fourth quarter of 2012.
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