News, Retail

Abercrombie puts its clothes back on and turns up the shop lights

A new light: Abercrombie & Fitch is ditching its shirtless men, and adding light to its troubled retail stores.

Those sculpted shirtless blokes that have helped international retailer Abercrombie & Fitch peddle apparel to teens around the world have apparently lost their appeal and so, too, has the dark lighting and blaring music that long characterised the once trendy stores.

The struggling Ohio-based company, which runs the Abercrombie as well as the Hollister & Co chains, has decided to turn up the lights at its shops, reports Retail Dive.

It’s all part of a departure from the company’s trademark sexualised marketing tactics. The image overhaul started after the December departure of former CEO Mike Jeffries, known as a control freak who insisted staff be called ‘models’ and who specified details down to the width of cuffs and what music could be played on the corporate jet, as Bloomberg Business has noted. It wrote: 

  • ‘The stores are also becoming less intimidating in the post-Jeffries era. “We are changing the music,” said Christos Angelides, the new-ish president of the Abercrombie brand, “trying different levels of noise—uh, music.” ‘The stores probably won’t be nightclub dark, the clothes will be easier to find, and the fitting rooms more welcoming. The biggest change in the stores may be this: Managers will be responsible for how much the store sells. Incredibly, this wasn’t the case in the Jeffries era, when managers focused on how the store — and the employees — looked.’

In Abercrombie’s last fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31, sales fell 9 per cent to $3.7 billion and profits slipped 5 per cent to $54.6 million as store closures continued and have hit 275 since 2011, Chain Store Age reported. The fourth quarter was particularly harsh, as profits tumbled by a third to $44 million.

‘The question for Abercrombie is whether it’s all too long in coming,’ Retail Dive observed. ‘Those still-dim stores have not been very busy lately.’

The 123-year-old retailer has been through change before. For decades prior to a 1970s bankruptcy it was an upmarket provider of outdoor and hunting goods and apparel such as shotguns, fishing rods, tents and clothing.

Eventually it re-emerged as the half-naked teen retailer. With those go-go years over, the company could sum up its new strategy by twisting some old Willie Nelson lyrics: Turn up the lights, the party’s over. 

Photo is from Arsenly Krasnevsky via Shutterstock