‘We are not the Abercrombie & Fitch that you once knew’: Before-and-after photos reveal how the store has changed

caption
Abercrombie wants to be cool again.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

  • At Abercrombie
    & Fitch’s
    investor day on Wednesday,
    the company’sCEO Fran
    Horowitz assured Wall Street that the brand has changed and
    outlined its strategy to grow into a
    $5 billion
    business.
  • The company, which also owns Hollister and
    Abercrombie Kids, has been working hard to execute a turnaround
    by investing in its stores,
    closing unprofitable locations
    , improving its product
    assortment, and working on its marketing
    strategy.
  • This is paying off – in the third quarter of 2017 the
    parent company reported positive sales growth for the first
    time in
    six years
    .
    In the fourth quarter
    of 2017, the Abercrombie brand
    alone had its own comeback, reporting an impressive 5% increase
    in same-store sales.
  • We visited one of the Abercrombie stores to see how
    much it has changed.

Abercrombie’s CEO Fran Horowitz had a strong message for Wall
Street at the company’s investor day this week: "we are not the
Abercrombie & Fitch that you once knew," she said, according
to
The Street
.

The retailer has been working hard to shake off its ’90s
reputation of having oversexualized ad campaigns and dimly lit
stores where the air is thick with the smell of cologne.

"Our stores were notoriously dark and very intimidating,"
Horowitz told
The Street
on Wednesday.


Horowitz
, formerly chief merchandising officer who took over
as CEO in February 2017, has executed a turnaround for the
company by investing in stores,
closing unprofitable locations
, improving product assortment,
and working on its marketing strategy.

And it seems to be paying off. In the fourth quarter of 2017, the
brand reported an impressive 5% increase in same-store sales
numbers. In the previous quarter, the parent company, which also
owns the Hollister brand and Abercrombie Kids, reported
positive same-store sales growth for the first time in

six years
.

Its stores are at the forefront of its turnaround effort. We
visited one of its Manhattan locations to see how much it has
changed:


We headed to an Abercrombie store in lower Manhattan on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

caption
Abercrombie & Fitch in South Street Seaport.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

This is one of only two stores in the city. The second is located
in Midtown.


From the outside, the store looks dark and it’s hard to see in. We approached with caution, remembering its dimly lit stores of the past.

caption
The store ads look different than they used to.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Instantly, we can see its oversexualized ads have been toned down
and there are no topless models to greet customers.


Here’s what you might have been greeted with in former days.

caption
Topless models standing by the doorway of an Abercrombie store.
source
Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

Abercrombie abandoned its shirtless models.


Instinct tells us to recoil a little as we open the door. But we are pleased to find that there is no booming music and only a faint whiff of cologne.

caption
Clothing is displayed on tables and racks.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

On the first impression, the store appeared to be well organized.


The store is brighter but the decor harks back to its former days. The imposing faux mahogany furniture and tartan carpets feel dated.

caption
A staircase takes you to the second floor.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

The company has made a significant investment in its stores over
the past year – closing 39 locations, downsizing 16, and creating
seven new prototype stores.

"We still think the store has a role in the future of retail,"
Joanne Crevoiserat, the chief operating officer at Abercrombie
& Fitch, told Business Insider in March.


The first floor is devoted to womenswear with swimwear at the front of the store.

caption
There were a number of one-piece swimsuits.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

They also carried swimwear accessories.


Abercrombie is insistent about not being seen as a teen retailer.

caption
One-piece swimsuits were popular in the store.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Some of its designs could appeal older consumers.


But it’s hard to imagine many of these clothes being appropriate for anyone else but teens.

caption
These Micky Mouse t-shirts seem to be directly targeted at younger shoppers.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

A lot of the clothing was very similar to its teen sister brand
Hollister.


According to Horowitz, the brand is making a push to improve the quality of its products. "This is our differentiator," she told The Street on Wednesday.

caption
The company still has some work to do on quality.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Some items still looked flimsy.


In 2014, Abercrombie’s former CEO, Mike Jeffries, initiated a move to ditch the brand’s signature logo from clothing

caption
Abercrombie & Fitch clothes on display in 2003.
source
Getty

The logo was a prominent feature in its clothing.


Despite this, we still find a ton of clothing with logos on.

caption
The logo hasn’t gone away completely.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

We saw the company’s logo on quite a few items.


In some cases, it does feel infinitely more subtle than before.

caption
Can you see the logo?
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Logos are still present on clothing items, but it’s not as
obvious.


The company said it would be scaling back on promotions in the future.

caption
Big clearance sales may be going away soon.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Most of this store was on sale and there was a small section
dedicated to clearance items.


The denim section is easy to shop. One wall is stacked full of different styles and there was a buy-one-and-get-one-free offer available.

caption
Denim is big for the brand.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Horowitz told Business Insider in March that denim was one of its
most successful areas in 2017.


Its push into omnichannel is apparent in store with its "buy online pick up in store" services.

caption
It’s easy to spot the in-store pick-up area.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

There were also signs informing customers that they can purchase
products in store and have them shipped home at no cost.


Next, we head to menswear.

caption
Lots of colors!
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Linen shirts in multiple colors were prominently placed.


Logos are ramped up here.

caption
More logos.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

It was hard to escape the logo in the men’s section.


The majority of clothing was on sale – including core products such as chinos and shirts.

caption
There was a buy-one-get-one-free offer on chinos.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

The chinos came in a range of colors.


Menswear definitely felt more appropriate for older consumers.

caption
Signature fit shirts.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

There was a good selection of plain shirts, which could appeal to
a range of male consumers.


In the past, Abercrombie was known for its oversexualized ads.

caption
Abercrombie’s raunchy ads featured prominently in stores.
source
Abercrombie

The biggest difference in the store we visited was its ad
campaigns in both men’s and women’s wear.


It had ditched its shirtless male models and is instead opted for a more down-to-earth look.

caption
The chiseled torsos have gone.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

There’s definitely more of a focus on an outdoorsy lifestyle.


These shopping bags no longer exist.

caption
Abercrombie’s signature bags.
source
Reuters/Benoit Tessier

The shirtless models have been removed from its shopping bags.


Abercrombie has evolved.

caption
Simple and sleek.
source
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Our verdict: The lights were on, the cologne had
but almost gone, and the sales assistants were wearing shirts.
This is definitely a new era for Abercrombie.

Overall, we were impressed with the shopping experience and it
was evident that the turnaround efforts are having an impact.
However, without a complete remodel of stores, it’s impossible
not to hark back to former days.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.