We always knew we didn’t belong in Abercrombie; being accosted by overpowering cologne while dodging deer antlers and shelling out a year’s worth of allowance on a sweatshirt never particularly appealed to us. But then again, we weren’t blonde, lead cheerleader, and built like, well, we usually say “an Abercrombie model”, so we were pretty sure A&F didn’t want our business anyway.
Turns out, we may have been right.
When speaking with Business Insider last week, Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail, claimed that A&F 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.’”
So what exactly deems a kid cool enough to earn the privilege of wearing the A&F brand? In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries said, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the 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.”
So who’s automatically excluded from this “cool” group? Girls above a size 10, apparently. Abercrombie doesn’t even list women’s XL or XXL on its size chart. According to Lewis, the only reason Abercrombie offers XL and XXL men’s sizes is likely to appeal to beefy athletes.
But what about the trend toward inclusion and away from stereotypical standards of beauty? Jeffries said of retailers that cater to a broader customer base: “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.”
We think its safe to say that if this is truly the brand’s position, there will likely be far more alienation than excitement. In fact, is it just us, or does Jeffries sound like the perfect cast for the next villain on Glee?