There’s no denying that Abercrombie and Fitch was the epitome of cool during our middle school days. The logo bearing graphic tees were perfect for the first day of school, and the overpowering smell of “Fierce” (their infamously strong cologne for guys) was an integral part of the shopping experience. So, how did it become a store to be avoided like the plague?
Abercrombie and Fitch was founded in 1892, but it started out as a sporting goods store. It wasn’t until 1988, when it was bought by the same company that owns Express and Victoria’s Secret, that it emerged as a clothing retailer for trendy teens. The store made a name for itself with the unique marketing strategy of CEO Mike Jeffries. Jeffries had the idea of hiring attractive employees to work as “floor models” with the hopes that they would bring in attractive customers. The brand wanted to have a cool, sexy image that particularly appealed to teens.
And for years, that was successful. The images in the store and the bags famously featured models wearing anything but actual clothes. The stores were dark and edgy. Walking into the store felt sophisticated, especially when you were an awkward seventh grader with braces. But seventh grade— thankfully— didn’t last forever, and neither did Abercrombie’s popularity.
A big hit to the brand came in 2013 came when controversial comments made by Mike Jeffries came to light. Jeffries had said that he only wanted cool, good looking people to wear his clothes, which people understandably found offensive. Around this time, fast fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M became popular to young adults and teenagers, and these types of stores offered trendy pieces for a fraction of Abercrombie’s prices. Four years later, Abercrombie’s popularity only continued to plummet. The Abercrombie and Fitch in downtown State College closed over a year ago, and a huge new H&M just opened a block over. If Abercrombie wants to make a comeback, they’ll need to make major changes to their brand.
If they make big enough changes, a small comeback may be possible. Cheaper prices and no logos could help the brand reestablish itself as a store that can meet the standards of today’s young adults. However, no matter how much it changes, Abercrombie and Fitch will never reach its old levels of success.
Astrophysics major Luke Zengel agrees, saying, “I think the real problem is that Abercrombie was trending when we were in 6th, 7th, 8th grade and will always be reminiscent of those awkward tween years. Also, no matter how drastically the brand changes its style, atmosphere and advertisements, it’ll be hard to shake its rep of being that dark, risqué store we felt awkward taking our parents to, considering the topless models watching over you and your mom while you shopped.”
With all of these factors against the brand, perhaps malls should officially kiss the store Abercrom-BYE!