Someone told Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries that brand works best when you stick a stake in the ground and clearly identify potential customers.
But Jeffries misunderstood. This perennially hip retailer garnered a fresh round of negative publicity this week when a book about retail operations, called “The New Rules of Retail” revealed Abercrombie & Fitch were no longer selling any women’s clothes above large or pants larger than size 10. That unearthed a 2006 Salon article in which the tone-deaf CEO said that he doesn’t want large women wearing his clothes.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries told the online magazine. “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.”
According to Forbes, Abercrombie & Fitch has remained silent in the wake of this latest controversy, refusing to distance the company from those statements.
Jeffries should follow Nike’s lead. Nike’s “Just Do It” brand tells customers that it’s for winners. That’s a select group, but one that any person with determination can join. Besides, everyone wants to be a winner.
That’s the power of the Nike brand.
By being so specific about the weight of customers, rather than their attitude, Jeffries and by extension, Abercrombie & Fitch, sound hateful and shallow.
For the record, I’ll take a plus-sized Marilyn Monroe any day over an emaciated hipster.