The once-great and powerful Abercrombie brand has lost a lot of its popularity with the American market over the past several years. With a rather sordid past of lawsuits and inequality, Abercrombie has seen declining sales in its U.S. stores. Finally, they are prepared to make some drastic changes for the brand in an effort to compete with the bargain fast-fashion stores like H&M and Forever 21.
Events leading up to the Great Decline
Abercrombie has seen its fair share of criticism in recent history. Stemming from their desire to make their brand seem “exclusive” and hip at the expense of adolescents’ self images. The previous in-store experience consisted of dark, club-like vibes with blaring music and exorbitant amounts of Abercrombie perfume permeating the air. The clothes touted the once-popular Abercrombie logo, front and center, making it easy for teens to recognize the brand and band together in similar clothing.
To further the brand’s detriment, Abercrombie only offered smaller sizes, allowing only for those that fit the typecast of skinny and young to wear the clothing. To top it all off, the hiring practices for the Abercrombie stores were solely based on looks, with employees hired as “models,” not “sales associates.” This discriminatory application process cost the brand $40 million dollars in settlement payouts and untold amounts in brand equity.
Abercrombie’s popularity decrease may not solely be a result of bad business practices. Increased competition from cheap fast-fashion stores like H&M and Forever 21 have caused sale decreases for many higher-end fashion stores geared towards teens like Urban Outfitters, Aeropostale, and American Eagle. The fast-fashion stores quickly produce trendy, individualized, and cheap clothing that adolescents eat up like overpriced cupcakes. In today’s market, adolescents would rather spend their hard-earned allowances on tech and gadgets rather than $35 t-shirts.
Abercrombie is going through “changes”
The Abercrombie brand is in a difficult position, dug it’s own grave. They took a risk in how they presented their brand to the public, and the risk paid off 15 years ago, but is biting them today. The Abercrombie style of having their logo front and center on nearly every article of clothing in the store is now being phased out. Abercrombie CEO stated that the logo will be practically nonexistent by Spring 2015. The brand will be opting for more trendy styles with a faster turnaround time from design to production.
The Abercrombie stores will be seeing major changes as well. The music is being turned down, the lights are being turned up, and even the perfume spraying is going to be reduced. Additionally, the huge half-naked model photography plastering the stores will be removed and the blinds on the windows will be removed. The brand is making a major leap by endeavoring into the once-banned color of black in their garments (way to really push the envelope, Abercrombie). The brand even plans to increase its size offering to appeal to “larger women.”
Only time will tell if Abercrombie’s changes will save them from this downward trend. The brand is in a precarious position where the public wants to be separated from the brand image and doesn’t want to pay the Abercrombie premium on its clothing. The lesson to be learned from Abercrombie: if a brand creates exclusivity for itself at the detriment of others, it will eventually cause the brand harm in the future. The public does not tolerate intolerance, and it is a bad position for a brand to be in if they appear as the stand-alone “cool kid” on the playground that no one wants to play with.