Abercrombie & Fitch Is Making A Major Comeback

After falling hard during the 2008 recession and because of other toxic brand factors, Abercrombie & Fitch has made a surprising comeback through changes like embracing all body types, taking sexuality out of its ads, and making its stores more inviting.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

abercrombie & fitch

Amid the downtrodden retail world, one store is finding success. Abercrombie & Fitch, once a staple in malls, is rising from its troubled past when other businesses are struggling. And that is good news for fans of the brand.

Abercrombie & Fitch was the store to shop at in the 1990s and early 2000s. Their high-price items were the go-to clothing items for those with money (and those that wanted to look like they had money). The company specifically targeted high school students during its marketing campaigns.

It was also well-known that the brand refused to produce clothing sizes to accommodate anyone needing XL or XXL. The CEO in the early 2000s was Mike Jefferies. He made serious waves for some controversial statements. 

In 2006, he said, “We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends.” And that tactic was clear in ad campaigns featuring shirtless males.

However, while that approach worked for over a decade, it quickly became apparent that shoppers would no longer tolerate it. The company didn’t fare well in the 2008 recession. And according to CNN, “Its sales slumped and by the time Jefferies left as CEO in 2014, the brand was toxic and had settled race and sex discrimination and harassment lawsuits.”

Under new leadership, Abercrombie & Fitch worked hard to turn its image around. And those efforts paid off with recent positive financial news. While other retailers dreaded the holiday season and feared a continued sales slump, the clothing company pulled ahead.

On Monday, the company reported incredible growth in women’s wear. And menswear is hot on its heels. Plus, “The company lifted its fourth quarter and full-year sales and profit outlook, sending its stock up 9%.”

The brand’s success is attributable to a few critical moves. First, it removed any sexuality from its ads and marketing. Then it pursued a completely different market segment.

Instead of going after high school students, Abercrombie & Fitch now markets to adults. They have removed the large and familiar logo, which turned out to be good news. So grownups can feel comfortable wearing the famous clothing line anywhere.

Additionally, the company made some adjustments to the store experience. They did away with the darker, broody interior lighting. Now the stores offer a lighter, more enjoyable shopping experience. 

And perhaps the biggest change was to its philosophy on clothing sizes. No longer does Abercrombie & Fitch shun XL and XXL items. Now, the brand works hard to produce clothes that are true to size and more representative of its demographics.

All that hard work paid off. The company is doing so well that it plans a rapid expansion. Currently, there are only 225 stores nationwide.

There are far fewer storefronts now than there were in the brand’s heyday. So Abercrombie & Fitch plans to rectify that. It intends to add roughly 10 stores per year. 

If things go as planned, the company hopes to have over 250 stores by 2026. They will likely succeed since customers seem pleased with the changes. And that is a huge win during a time when shoppers have drastically curtailed their discretionary spending.