Hollister ordered to add wheelchair access to stores

A federal judge told the chain to fix its entrances. Its parent company, Abercrobie & Fitch, is getting awfully familiar with such discrimination claims.

By Jason Notte Aug 19, 2013 5:05PM
File photo of a Hollister storefront (© Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa/Corbis)When a mall chain designs its storefronts to look like a front porch, maybe it should consider that not all front porches have steps.


Since the Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) subsidiary brand couldn't fathom a world in which this was possible, a federal judge in Denver ruled Friday that the chain has until Jan. 1, 2017, to rebuild the entrances of its stores so they are wheelchair accessible. That's a rate of 77 stores per year, according to the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.


The changes are the result of a lawsuit filed against Hollister on behalf of several Colorado customers. The judge's ruling isn't picky about how those changes are made, saying that the company's options include leveling out stairs at entrances, installing ramps and closing off stairway entrances and having all customers use secondary entrances.


Then again, this is a company where exclusion isn't just an unfortunate misunderstanding, but corporate policy. Chief executive Michael Jeffries once famously dictated that his clientele is comprised solely of "the cool kids." For context, this is the same guy who requires the staff of his private jet to wear only boxer briefs and flip-flops and to endure Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" on return flights.


The "look policy" at Abercrombie & Fitch stores not only banishes black garments entirely, but has landed the company in court twice for its treatment of hijab-wearing employees. That policy deems those who work at the chain's store counters "models" and renders those who don't quite fit the sculpted, pale template worker drones who have to be hidden in the back of the store or taught how to stealthily restock items and flee unnoticed like good little gnomes.


That approach may have worked just fine in 2003, but it's a much iffier now that nobody is wearing mall store logos on their chests anymore. The last time Abercrombie & Fitch announced earnings, it was forced to report a 15% drop in sales from the same period a year before. As it prepare to divulge its latest earnings, the entire retail industry around it is forecasting yet another sales slump.


Meanwhile the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that just more than 1 million teens ages 16 to 19 from A&F's core audience found jobs in May and June, down by 2.1% from last year. Though the number of unemployed teens of that age shrank from 1.86 million in June 2012 to 1.4 million this June, the number holding down a job also shrank from 5.2 million to 4.5 million. That reduced teens' overall participation rate from 41% of all workers last June to just 35% this year.


Abercrombie & Fitch has been told repeatedly by the U.S. legal community to stop being such jerks to its employees and customers. That the company stubbornly refuses to do so -- and instead treats its business like an audition for the "Zoolander" sequel in Michael Jeffries' imagination -- suggests it's willing to go to its funeral dressed in a wardrobe straight out of "Jersey Shore."


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49Comments
Aug 19, 2013 6:31PM
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What a shock for Michael Jeffries! He will now have to accomodate the ever unpopular wheelchair-using crowd. When will these people realize that wheelchairs are out of fashion and learn how to walk? If they were cool, thin, and good looking enough, they would do it!

 

The fine people of America should realize by now that they deserve better than Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch, and stop patronizing companies that uphold such disgusting ideals.

Aug 19, 2013 5:36PM
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How would you like that job? Walk around in your underwear for a weirdo to order you around. Wait, other then the undies that is my job! But having to listen to the same song and flip flops. I would take one off and beat him.  Is it just me, or does anyone else think this place is on borrowed time because of the media?. Chubby people do not like being left out. And this guy isn't hitting on just the obese. It must be a tuff world to be that damn perfect. I bet his manhood is the size of a baby carrot.
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Has South Park done an episode on Abercrombie? If not I sure hope they do. Timmy and Cartman could picket the store. I've never understood the popularity of Abercrombie. Their clothes are the most uncomfortable and ill fitting of any brand I have owned. Cargo pants and shorts are so heavy and over stitched that one feels as though they are dragging a ball and chain along. This trend of buying clothes that are worn out and beaten to death needs to stop.

 

If you rich bastards really want to wear worn out clothes then lets do it right. Visit your nearest Good Will or Salvation army. This way you will be helping those less fortunate instead of buying another jet for the ugly CEO Michael Jeffries. Think about it, when you spend 80.00 dollars for a pair of shorts you are helping this bastard get another jet or face lift.

Aug 19, 2013 5:40PM
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I am so glad that this finally happened finally. As a wheelchair user I get  so annoyed everytime I go by that store because of its inaccessiblity (and for no good reason other than to look "cool"). I am getting so frustrated to see so many public places are not handicapped accessible/or offer comparible services. I don't understand how this is happening as there is a law that has been going on for so long that simplified says that public places have to be wheelchair accessible, so how this their store fronts ever get passed by inspectors.
Aug 19, 2013 6:53PM
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Isn't this how trends work: once you're percieved as universally "cool," you're pretty much on the way out? Hey cool kids, can you guys speed up the process on this one??

Aug 19, 2013 8:13PM
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don't like it? don't work there!  don't like it  don't shop there!  its a business,  when the money stops coming in maybe things will change? sick and tired of all this.
Aug 19, 2013 8:40PM
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They should be made to stop piping Axe through the ventilation system!
Aug 19, 2013 6:47PM
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Hinted at in this story is the reality that economic libertarians, like me, have long talked about:  We don't need lots of laws and regulations and lawsuits and plaintiffs and personal injury lawyers to make stores sell what we want and how we want to buy it.  All we have to do is let the market work its will.  So, if Hollister doesn't want my business, then great, and I won't give them my business.

 

I doubt the author of the above article meant to ever imply that the market could solve the problems bad business practices cause, and instead meant to imply that without federal "guidance" business are just incapable of operating successfully, and so for once I have to thank the author's teachers for failing to do a better job.  But, in the small chance that the author DID mean to argue that economic liberty will handle the problem, I can only say "Welcome!"

Aug 19, 2013 6:32PM
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Abecrombie? Abercrobie? Abercrombie? Spell check?
Aug 19, 2013 9:48PM
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The market takes care of everything.
Aug 19, 2013 10:38PM
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If you don't like it there then don't shop or apply to work there, simple.
Aug 19, 2013 8:13PM
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I find it funny how the media is getting everyone "mad" at A&F.  Most of you could care less about them but gee, now that you know they only make clothes for "cool kids" you are OUTRAGED.

And gosh, they don't want to sell black clothes, WHO CARES.
Aug 20, 2013 12:25AM
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In my hometown mall, Hollister does have a handi-cap entrance.  There is a wheelchair button you can press and enter through the doors that look like windows.  It isn't very roomy once inside, though.
Aug 19, 2013 8:48PM
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You know they actually have wheelchairs with tiny extendable clamps on them to help people get up stairs these days. This is just wrong what this company is doing, and it's good they're finally being made to do this, but it would be hilarious if a person with one of those wheelchairs just came in BEFORE they built the ramp, like "Yeah, I'm not even gonna wait until you give us access, Imma come in anyways!"
Aug 20, 2013 12:13AM
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People still shop there? I assumed when the graphic t-shirt phase died out about a decade ago the business would too.
Aug 20, 2013 10:03AM
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Michael Jeffries sounds like nothing more than a pervert who is trying to create his own "cool crowd"  that he obviously didn't get to hang out with in his youth.  Those stores are so ridiculously overpriced considering they sell nothing more than t-shirts and jeans.   Parents - do not support this type of thinking or this man's tireless aspirations to be cool.  Rather than buying jets with boxer-clad staff, Jeffries should invest in some good therapy sessions.  
Aug 20, 2013 12:56AM
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The ADA, another government program which has grown far beyond its original intent.  What a surprise....
Aug 20, 2013 4:25PM
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if you own a business that isn't accessible to wheelchairs, let alone a big **** chain, you should apply to go to Mars.
Aug 19, 2013 6:54PM
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This sounds like it was written by a jealous 17-year-old girl.
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