In the 2010s a brand that used to be a teen favorite, failed to keep up with changing customer demands. In 2016 the brand was one of the most-hated retailers in the US. At a time when people were beginning to celebrate body acceptance, the company’s sexualized marketing felt obsolete and disrespectful. No matter how attractive, models with chiseled abs that once drew crowds to their stores were no longer accepted by customers.
The target audience no longer enjoyed logos and company names on their clothing, they wanted their clothes to reflect personal style. Fast-fashion newcomers like Zara, H&M, Shein offered more expressive personal style. A&F faced an operating loss of 200$ million forcing it to close about 159 stores worldwide. However, the digital platform saw a profit of $57.4 million in Q1 2020 (Rozario 2021). During lockdown customers not only wanted to be ‘comfy’ but they wanted to look comfortable and cute. To meet customers’ needs the retailer shifted purchases and began extensively pushing casuals to capitalize on the demand after recognizing the rapidly expanding trend. Their chief executive heavily marketed the concept “Casual clothes are in our DNA” (“Killing it with casuals,” 2020) and indeed they are.
The brand successfully turned heads in the last year by using TikTok and Instagram influencers. Not only did the brand digitalize the shopping experience; The brand now includes categories such as gender-inclusive, trendy pieces, everyday essentials, swim, shoes, and accessories. I have been wearing Abercrombie and Fitch jeans for a long time because most jeans wouldn’t fit me correctly. The A&F jeans took it up a notch when they came out with their now-famous curve love jeans. Along with adding options such as buy online, pick up in-store, the company has also worked on making “minor modifications” to its website to help shoppers discover the perfect product. A&F CFO Scott Lipskey said their target audience currently is on a digital-first mindset. So, everything starts on a digital platform first and sometimes it ends in the store and sometimes it ends online. (Rozario 2021)
The brand has seen success with its branding transformation by being more inclusive and focusing on social initiatives. They are focusing on current matters like racial inequality, body positivity, and gender equality. They are also moving toward a sustainable approach for their clothing and supply chain. However, the brand still needs to focus on updating its internal digital technology and data analytics process. They have the data now they need to use it in the right direction. As a part of their growth plan, they are adding a data insights team to help them study customer needs.
Abercrombie & Fitch | Authentic American Clothing since 1892. www.abercrombie.com/shop/us.
“Killing It with Casuals: Abercrombie & Fitch’s Marketing during Coronavirus.” Attest, 9 Nov. 2020.
Rozario, Kevin. “Digital Helps Abercrombie & Fitch to Best Income Performance in over a Decade.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 May 2021.