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Don’t support Abercrombie and Fitch’s manipulative marketing strategies

By , Columnist  |  Sunday, May 19, 2013 10:17 PM

Mike Jeffries, CEO of the apparel brand Abercrombie and Fitch, may have contracted a case of cacomorphobia; the fear of fat people. He doesn’t want them as customers in his stores, as he proved in a recent conversation with retail expert Robin Lewis.

“He (Jeffries) doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis told Business Insider.  “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.”

I decided it would be beneficial to check out the A&F experience at the store level to see if the strategy is, in fact, working. What’s an Abercrombie and Fitch experience like? After passing two nearly-naked live models and risking asphyxiation from perfume, you will find yourself standing in the middle of seductive and provocative images featuring exclusively “good-looking” people.

It’s clear that the brand encourages sexual attraction and has a defined “look”: skinny, blonde and, in my opinion, malnourished.  ops-logo11-300x297

Only individuals that fit A&F’s cookie-cutter mold of beauty can wear the brand; the size range makes sure of that. Abercrombie doesn’t carry sizes bigger than extra large for women and, per Robin Lewis of Business Insider, only does so in the men’s category to cater to strong athletes that have a larger muscular structure. The biggest jean size at Abercrombie is a size ten, while similar retailers such as H&M and Forever21 offer up to size 16 and American Eagle even offers up to 18. Since when does size constitute beauty?

Even more infuriating is that this sizing structure is not based on the fact that larger sizes don’t sell, but rather is a brand decision. Abercrombie doesn’t want certain people to be wearing their clothing and makes it impossible for them to do so.

Jeffries told Salon in a 2006 interview, “Looking good is almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

However, Jeffries doesn’t stop there. When asked about his feelings toward excluding those that don’t fit his exact body-type ideal, he told Salon:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

Los Angeles-based writer Greg Karber decided to protest against A&F’s discrimination by purchasing the brand’s clothing from a thrift store and handing it out to the homeless. It’s a trend that is catching on and even sparked a Twitter trend, with the phrase #fitchthehomeless. The Huffington post reported that Karber wants to make Abercrombie the “world’s number one brand of homeless apparel.”  130508_NICOLE_THUMB

Although there are those that will speak against the cruel words and tactics of Abercrombie, others will continue to follow. Regrettably, along with sparking unrest among those that don’t fit his definition of beauty, Jeffries is forming a stronger brand loyalty with his current customer.

It’s human nature to have a desire to fit in and be wanted; to be part of the group. This marketing strategy, although malicious and hateful, constructs an “it” group that some people want to be part of.

That said, I plead that you consider this the next time you’re out shopping and pass an Abercrombie store. Throwing away all the A&F clothes you’ve ever bought is a bit extreme, but making the decision to not support these manipulative marketing strategies and not buy anymore in the future can really make a difference.

Nicole Soyka can be reached at soyk9466@stthomas.edu.

This item was posted in Opinions and has 6 comments so far.

6 Comments

  1. Joe Norton
    May. 20, 2013 5:26 PM

    I’d like to applaud Mike Jeffries in his exercise of liberty. He has resisted pressure from numerous people to change his marketing model and runs his business precisely how he wants to run it. Congratulations, I imagine just about any other CEO would sell out and start producing excessively large sizes of clothing so people who have hardly any self respect can be seen wearing his product, transferring the loss of self respect into his companies name but further lining the pockets of his perfume soaked jeans. Also, he is encouraging people to be healthy by offering sizes that only a healthy individual would fit into. Only fat*** Americans would denounce him for this. 

  2. Joe Norton
    May. 20, 2013 5:28 PM

    Please excuse my previous comments grammatical errors, it was written in a slight heat of passion.

  3. Joe Norton
    May. 20, 2013 5:39 PM

    I’d like to applaud Mike Jeffries in his exercise of liberty. He has resisted pressure from numerous sources to change his marketing model and yet, he still runs his business precisely how he desires. Congratulations Mike, I imagine just about any other CEO would sell out and start producing excessively large sizes of clothing just so people with minimal any self respect can be seen wearing his product, transferring the loss of self respect onto his company’s name while further lining the pockets their perfume soaked jeans. Also, he is encouraging people to be healthy by offering sizes that only a healthy individual would fit into. Only fat*** Americans would denounce him for this. 

  4. Joe Norton
    May. 20, 2013 5:39 PM

    i missed an any

  5. Dylan Wallace
    May. 23, 2013 9:55 AM

    Joe, the problem isn’t that he doesn’t sell clothes in larger sizes.  In fact I wasn’t even aware of this until this whole situation arose.  I don’t really find a problem with that as you are right, he can run his business how he wants.  The problem is that he alienated a whole group of potential customers with his hurtful statements. Additionally, have you seen that guy?  No way was he one of the “beautiful” people in high school.  The only way to justify being so hate filled in his comments is to say that it was a creative marketing strategy.  To say only fat*** Americans would denounce him is shortsighted (I don’t think the author of this article falls into this category). Like the author says, don’t support these manipulative and hate-filled marketing strategies.

  6. tj murphy
    May. 25, 2013 7:17 AM

    Norton, Please tell us your from St. Johns.

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