For Abercrombie & Fitch, flagship stores just aren’t cutting it.
The brand – which also owns Hollister and Abercrombie Kids – announced in March it would be closing 40 stores over the next several months. Among the closings are flagship stores for the Abercrombie and Hollister brands in New York, Milan, and Fukuoka, Japan.
These closures represent a shift toward smaller stores with smaller square footage. Since 2014, the brand has made significant progress to attract customers to its locations by shedding the darkened stores and cologne-soaked displays. Abercrombie plans to also open 40 new stores across brands by the end of the year, and it is also investing in new experiences at 85 stores.
We visited the soon-to-close Hollister flagship store in Soho, New York. For a brand that seems to be positioned for a comeback, this flagship in New York City left much to be desired.
Judging by the vast amount of unused or wasted space, the move toward smaller stores should help consolidate merchandise and develop a more intimate relationship with customers.
Our verdict? It’s time for a change. Here’s what we saw:
We visited the Hollister flagship store in New York’s Soho neighbourhood. Outside, we saw a sign advertising 50% off select items.
The store’s design — while breathtaking — was over-the-top. Customers are greeted with a painted exposed-brick wall at the entrance of the store.
The surf theme began the moment we walked in the door. A surfboard was placed behind two mannequins at the front of the store.
Customers then make their way into the dimly lit store divided into various miniature rooms, each with different merchandise. The best way to describe the detail in the architecture is that it’s like a museum.
This room with a chandelier was filled with merchandise from Gilly Hicks, Hollister’s intimates brand.
After closing in 2014, Gilly Hicks was relaunched in 2017. The swim and intimates brand has helped attract customers to the Hollister brand …
… and with good reason. The selection was diverse and inexpensive.
The detail in the store’s design was stunning. We found a room decorated in vintage floral wallpaper.
However, the dark lighting in the store largely detracted from the shopping experience. Even with some open windows, the surf theme could have benefited from having more sunlight.
The indoor architecture also seemed to unnecessarily take up valuable walking and display space.
Overall, the store seemed to have little variety in terms of the items in stock, which could be due to the store’s imminent closure. However, it was hard to find anything outside of hoodies, T-shirts, jeans, and undergarments.
But still, the prices were hard to beat. Almost every item in the store was on sale …
… from pants …
… to flip flops.
This bright yellow top was impossibly cheap.
The sales seemed to be doing their job. A lot of the racks were practically empty. These overalls were on sale for $US25 each and seemed particularly lonely.
One of the unique items I found was this yellow bandana top. There was a rack with some in leopard print in another room.
We also found some Hollister-brand beauty supplies.
There were sales everywhere, but the jeans seemed the most popular by far.
Many of the shelves were almost completely empty. At 50% off, we were hardly surprised.
With the enormous deals throughout the store, the fully stocked sale room in the back seemed almost superfluous.
We managed to find a small Pride section with different items on sale, even though Pride Month had ended the day before.
We even found some leftover Pride decor in one of the rooms in the back.
Two other floors in the store were both closed. A closer look revealed that they were almost completely empty — probably in preparation for the imminent closing.
There was a spacious sitting area near one of the fitting rooms — a feature that seemed unnecessary, though nice.
Our experience at Hollister made it clear why smaller stores might be a better move for Abercrombie. The decor, though beautiful, took up too much space and awkwardly divided the store into separate segments.
Stores with less space might mean losing the beautiful display rooms that made this Hollister location special. But if it makes the company more profitable, it still might be worth it.