Is Abercrombie just for the 'cool kids'?

Dredged-up old comments implying as much from the edgy retailer's CEO renew the controversy, which hasn't fazed investors.

By Aimee Picchi May 22, 2013 1:37PM

A shopper leaves the Abercrombie & Fitch UK Flagship Store on Savile Row in London, England (© Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) has a history of courting controversy, and its latest "fat" flap is no exception. 

The teen-focused clothing store is battling negative public perception for some 2006 remarks from chief executive Michael Jeffries, who expressed his chain's desire to "go after the cool kids." He added, "A lot of people don't belong, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."

Why are 7-year-old quotes getting Jeffries in hot water today? A Business Insider article earlier this month revisited his comments, while pointing out that the store doesn't sell plus-size clothes or sizes beyond large, unlike some of its competitors. Robin Lewis, the author of "The New Rules of Retail," told the website Jeffries' comments were meant as an exclusion against "larger people." 

Jeffries has apologized for those comments and is even meeting with a teen protester who has asked Abercrombie to expand its range of sizes. But the maelstrom that has erupted has been fierce.

Actress Kirstie Alley, who has struggled with her weight, said on "Entertainment Tonight" that she would "never buy anything" from the store. Others who have condemned the chain include actress Sophia Bush and talk-show host Ellen de Generes. 

So far, shareholders are ignoring the ruckus. Indeed, Abercrombie's stock has jumped almost 10% since the controversial comments were resurfaced. 

Investors have several reasons for their thick skin. First, Abercrombie thrives on controversy. In 1997, the store debuted a magazine called A&F Quarterly that featured scantily clad models and was condemned as soft-core porn.

Then there were issues such as Abercrombie kids line of thong underwear in 2002, followed in 2011 with push-up bras for 7-year-olds

And Jeffries himself, who has headed the company since 1992, is known for his eccentric tastes, requiring actors and models working aboard the company's Gulfstream jet to wear an Abercrombie uniform, including a "spritz" of the store's cologne, according to Bloomberg.

Those serving on the company plane must follow 40 pages of instructions, including wearing black gloves to lay out silverware and playing the song "Take Me Home" when passengers board.

The bigger issue for Abercrombie investors isn't so much its CEO's oddities or comments but whether he can boost sales and earnings. The company may post a loss when it reports first-quarter results on Friday, but revenue is expected to rise 2.2%, Forbes says. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi

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May 22, 2013 3:19PM
CEO Mike Jefferies this is his words ""We go after the cool kids," he was quoted as saying, in reference to his company's target demographic. "A lot of people don't belong, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.

Sounds like a douche bag to me.
May 22, 2013 3:31PM
It is not the end of the world to not be able to fit into A&F clothing.
May 22, 2013 3:34PM

Really? This is still a story? There's an easy solution to this, don't buy their clothes if you don't like them. I'm too old and fat to buy that brand, do clothes need to be politically correct too? Maybe we should all wear freakin pant-suits.

May 22, 2013 3:55PM
Why the hell is this even news anymore.  They sell inferior clothes at inflated prices to egotistical

narcissists.  They can have their crappy clothes and attitude.

May 22, 2013 3:10PM
i've been saying similar about A&F for years.  i've tried and can't fit in their clothes - they are way too tight in the arms, chest and shoulders, and too baggy in the waist.  they are just poorly fitted and would need to be tailored to fit anyone with an athetic or muscular build.  the line is made for those built like anorexics, non-athletes and crackheads.  not exactly who you want to target, if you are being exclusionary . . .
May 22, 2013 3:15PM
"a lot of people don't belong, they can't belong"

I agree, people with an attitude problem like Mr. Jeffries cannot belong in a polite, modern society ;)

May 22, 2013 3:38PM
Most trendy clothing brands don't make clothing for the overweight. They tend to make clothing for attractive people. There are brands for larger people: Lane Bryant and Big and Tall store. People have two choices: 1. shop at the stores that sell clothes that fit you, or 2. gain/lose weight in order to fit into the other brands.
May 22, 2013 4:10PM

1 - I don't shop at A&F

2 - It doesn't matter what segment of society feels left out from A&F.  If A&F wants to keep a narrow consumer base, that's up to them.  If they want to widen it to make more profits, that too is up to them.  If folks don't like how A&F targets or excludes certain consumer bases, they should take their money somewhere else.

3 - Other than that I really don't give a flying fk who feels slighted because one store caters to 'cool' or and 'skinnie' customers.

May 22, 2013 3:55PM
They have clothing lines that just focus on bigger people, why is it a big deal that they don't offer anything over a Large.

I've got a novel idea for you guys. Don't shop there if you don't like it and stop bitching. 
May 22, 2013 4:05PM

I shopped there ONE day many moons ago. I just needed something real quick to wear tomorrow for work or school and it was the first store in the mall I walked in. I was rudely awakened by how expensive the stuff was and the POOR Quality. Everything was basically washed out rags and they were charging an arm and a leg for it. I think I bought a shirt that I pretty much wore once or twice. That was over 25 years ago. Needless to say I have not been back in there since. I walk past it in the mall all the time and don't even think twice about going in there nor do I let my family drag me in there.


I'm sorry to say but nothing but over priced rags.

May 22, 2013 3:51PM
Not interested in shopping there. I prefer to shop where I would actually be surprised to find a$$-less chaps for sale.
May 22, 2013 4:19PM
I don't understand why its OK for some stores to sell only plus-size and not offer clothes for skinny people, yet this isn't because its the reverse? What a load of crap.
May 22, 2013 4:01PM
Why do people make it their life goal to get so worked up over trivial stuff? Let this store (which I've never even heard of which means that I'm either too old or was never cool enough (besides, I was a metalhead (or still one, actually) in high school and college and so I wouldn't have shopped there anyways) to know about) market to whomever they want. If they think that they can make a business by marketing to those people then good for them; I hope they are successful so that people working for that company keep their job.
May 22, 2013 4:11PM
Who cares! I'm tired of him and A&F, but I'm more tired of the people whining about and caring what that turd has to say. If you don't like him don't shop there. There are plenty other clothes makers out there. Oh no he said you're fat and uncool. Cry me a freakin' river!
May 22, 2013 3:43PM
I prefer my overpriced clothes from Orvis or J.L. Powell, better quality and stays in style longer than one season.
May 22, 2013 4:27PM
Well, there's "large" and then there's "large".  The sizing isn't standard anywhere - a "large" in the Philippines is actually a "small" here.  I wear a size 8;  back in "the day" it was a "12".  It's all about "complimentary" sizing.  The real problem here is the guy doesn't have a tactful bone in his body ~ he's snob but hey, it works for him.  Personally, I don't shop there, my kids don't shop there and have no desire to shop there.  Simply put, who cares and to each their own.
May 22, 2013 4:28PM

I can easily fit into A&F styles..i just don't think their clothes are particularly attractive..nor are they well can put an A&F label on inferior crap..and what you have is inferior crap with a procey label..

May 22, 2013 3:49PM

When A&F goes out of business and the analysts discuss what happened, they'll end up with the fact that A&F made a decision to exclude most of the American customer base. Any company that exclusively targets to teens who by nature have no money to spend, is asking to go bankrupt. Especially in this economy when so many young people can't find jobs.


And for them to put their low quality cheaply clothes made in sweatshops in  China or Bangaldesh or Pakistan or fill in the blank poor country as items to be coveted because they drape these clothes on anorexic models is ridculous.

May 22, 2013 5:06PM

Believe me, the "real cool kids" wouldn't be caught dead in A&F clothes.

May 22, 2013 4:11PM
My nieces used to envy their neighbors who were a size zero and able to shop at A&F.  Guess what?  Those tiny girls turned into BIG women and are no longer A&F's target market.  A&F is not following its market as it ages.  I wonder if another generation of kids will find it trendy to wear what their parents wore?
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