Dipping in and out of the social media channels today I’ve noticed a lot of irate posts and comments regarding a recent article in Business Insider about the comments made by the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries. Basically he has said that he only wants ‘cool, thin, beautiful people wearing Abercrombie’s clothes’. Reading the comments stirred me – but not into resolute agreement with the dissenters I’m afraid.
Before I continue I will preface with saying I am not fatist, remember? I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like not being able to buy the clothes I want. Even if the sizes were available – at my largest I really should not even have been thinking about wearing some styles from stores like H&M and A&F.
So back to what Mr. Jeffries said. Anyone who has studied Marketing 101 knows that every great (and not so great) brand has a target. You sacrifice being everything to all people in order to become niche with a certain core target. In theory all brands are exclusionary. Cartier market to wealthy individuals, Jenny Craig market to those that want to lose weight, Walmart target to those that want to ‘Save money. Live better.’, and Lane Bryant market to plus size women. Where are the complaints about these brands being exclusionary? I bet if you saw some of the white boards in those offices with the brand’s target demos, psychos and guiding principles written out, you would shudder to see who it really is they want buying their product.
I disagree completely with The Daily Mail’s summary regarding the furore - “But it might be time to change this dated business model. Plus-size, generally referring to U.S. 14 and above, makes up 67per cent of America’s purchasing population.” Let’s stop increasing this number and start addressing the problem by getting healthier America! I’ve often aired my hope that Zara doesn’t start vanity sizing for the US. Their sales are not as good here as in Europe due, it is said, to the larger average size of the American woman. Put bluntly a lot of American women can’t fit into Zara’s Large (very few of their clothes go to an XL). Keep the clothes as they are – those that are desperate to wear the clothes and can’t, can go for a run and stay away from the chocolate.
Now I do realize this isn’t just about being ‘large’. It’s also the reference to needing to be a ‘cool kid’ to shop there – and I get that. There are all sorts of pressures on children as it is – never mind them worrying about being cool enough or not to wear Abercrombie, but ‘kids that are cool’ versus ‘kids that are not’ is nothing new. Yes I have watched The Breakfast Club way too many times. As far as I am aware most high schoolers can’t afford to shop in A&F without their parents chipping in – so surely that is where a parent helps to guide them with their clothes choices? If, as a parent, you oppose the brand’s targeting practices don’t shop there.
So in conclusion to my random thoughts on the subject – I actually applaud Mike Jeffries for being open about his target market – it really doesn’t take much to work it out. I can’t see it damaging A&F, in fact for many it will become more desirable – and for those objectors there are many other places to shop.