Abercrombie & Fitch is making one mistake that's sabotaging its turnaround

AbercrombieFacebook/Abercrombie & FitchAbercrombie & Fitch’s comeback strategy has a flaw.

Abercrombie & Fitch has been overhauling its business to try and get teens to shop there again following years of sales declines.

The company has pared down on the visible logos that defined its clothes in the early aughts and it has been redesigning its stores to be a brighter, more relaxing place to shop.

But the brand’s comeback strategy has one major flaw: The new line of clothing is dull and unoriginal, according to Eric Beder, an analyst for Wunderlich Securities.

“As the better assortment (including the introduction of athleisure) hits the shelves, we cannot help but think how unoriginal the assortment is,” analysts wrote in a recent note. “While much more fashion forward, it is also uninteresting. We believe more needs to be done to address the uniqueness of the brand in order to perform a turnaround. And as teens continue to stay away, the brand has a long way to go, in our opinion.”

Abercrombie did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The brand has been trying to offer a more fashionable assortment similar to the cheap, trendy styles found at Forever 21 and H&M. But as we reported in May, some of Abercrombie’s clothes cost more than its fast-fashion competitors. Here’s an example:

The brand has also launched a new line of activewear that looks similar to styles offered by the popular sportswear brand Lululemon.
Abercrombie is smart to get into activewear. It’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the apparel business.


But the decision is also adding further confusion to an already muddled brand identity, according to Neil Saunders, the CEO of retail consulting firm Conlumino.

“A&F now needs to be much more decisive about what it stands for and who it wants to serve: in essence it needs a much clearer and more relevant brand identity,” Saunders wrote in a note earlier this year. “This is far from an easy task … and A&F has to tread a careful line between toning down the brasher elements of its image and becoming too generic — which will pitch it more firmly against cheaper competitors like H&M and Forever 21.”

Abercrombie & Fitch’s same-store sales fell 8% and total sales dropped 14% in the most recent quarter.

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