The Abercrombie & Fitch case can be attributed to comments made by CEO Mike Jeffries in 2006 which then resurfaced in May 2013, where he stated in so many words that certain type of people did not fit in his company’s clothes. When Jeffries’s comments about his personal philosophy for the brand being exclusive and only for ‘beautiful people’ were released in the Business Insider article they triggered major negative response from consumers who saw the brand as discriminatory. His intentions may have been to describe his target market and try to give the description of the customer his company was targeting. He may have also tried to use the power of exclusivity and scarcity, hence making his company more appealing. While these are good reasons, he essentially alienated a large group of people who did not fit that description. As one can expect, the backlash was swift and relentless. Nowadays with the advent of social media and internet the news spread hastily, and soon the company was getting negative publicity from celebrities and the media. With the lawsuits and settlements regarding other types of discrimination also pending, A&F offended numerous amounts of people because of their lack of diversity sensitivity. Social media campaigns were created against A&F’s discriminatory focus, ridiculing the brands philosophy. Many individuals pledged to never purchase the brands clothing again, while loyal customers did not see an issue with Jeffries philosophy. The publics’ dissonance with Jeffries brand philosophy hurt A&F’s bottom line significantly.
Only after much media attention did A&F feel compelled to make some sort of statement which was acquiescent at best. A&F stated that they “looked forward to continuing this dialogue”…not that they intended to change or take action or do anything, but that they were committed to “supporting (sic) diversity and inclusion”. It took almost three weeks for Jeffries to finally make a statement and issue an apology. A lot of damage had already been done to the A&F’s image that could have been prevented. A&F did not feel compelled to respond because they had no intensions of changing their target market or focus. They were not planning to change their direction, image or strategy by lengthening the curve. They intended to stick with their select target market because the exclusivity factor drives market demand which allows them to have higher profit margins. A&F took the stance that bad PR was better than no PR. When it was noted that the company remained resistant to address the needs of clothing for larger sized women; rather an overstatement, as the largest size A&F offers is a women’s size 10, while most major manufacturers consider this size a medium, not a large.
A quick response from A&F