Why Abercrombie Is In Desperate Need Of Reinvention

Abercrombie & Fitch used to be the pinnacle of high-school coolness, with people lining up to spend $90 on a logo-emblazoned hoodie.

Now they’ve fallen on hard times. The retailer’s international expansion failed and they’re shuttering stores back home. Profits were cut in HALF in the second quarter, the retailer announced today.

Abercrombie’s brand recognition is incredibly strong, and almost any American could describe the way the clothes look or how the stores smell.

But their preppy signature is polarising in a fashion cycle that embraces alternative looks. If punk, goth or grungy looks are cool, then Abercrombie decidely isn’t. 

And that can be dangerous in the fickle teen market.

For instance, here’s a main display from competitor American Eagle’s site embracing the “geek chic” trend popularised by actress Zooey Deschanel:

american eagle

[credit provider=”AE.com” url=”http://www.ae.com/web/browse/category.jsp?catId=cat90040″]

And here’s a display on Abercrombie’s site:

abercrombie display

[credit provider=”abercrombie.com” url=”http://www.abercrombie.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10901&storeId=10051&categoryId=12201&parentCategoryId=12201&topCategoryId=12201&langId=-1″]

The clothes look unchanged from this 2000 catalogue we saw for sale on eBay:


[credit provider=”ebay.com” url=”http://www.ebay.com/itm/AF3-ABERCROMBIE-FITCH-catalogue-BACK-TO-SCHOOL-2000-BRUCE-WEBER-PHOTOGRAPHER-/120962637820?pt=Magazines&hash=item1c29ef5ffc”]

In a world where motorcycle jackets, funky glasses and skull bracelets are popular, Abercrombie can’t succeed. 

John Jannuzzi at four-pins.com even wrote a “nostalgic” essay about when people used to wear Abercrombie & Fitch hoodies. At one point, Jannuzzi owned 20 of them:

“Rarely a day went by, regardless of the heat, that I didn’t wear one of those guys. My Christmas money, birthday money and allowance disappeared at such alarming rates, that my father intervened. Ultimately, I was told that I was being irresponsible, which is true, and as a result was forced to begrudgingly part ways with my beloved hoodie collection. I was allowed to keep a couple before being deported from Connecticut to college.”

LFO’s 1999 song Summer Girls, which said “I like girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch,” and helped launch the brand, is now considered vintage.

And a quick Twitter search of Abercrombie reveals sentiments like this one:

tweet abercrombie

[credit provider=”Twitter” url=”Wherever%20they%20are,%20I%20hope%20they’re%20resting%20comfortably%20next%20to%20my%20white%20Adidas,%20faded%20and%20holed%20baggy%20jeans%20and%20North%20Face%20fleece.%20I’ll%20see%20you%20guys%20in%20heaven%20one%20day.%20I’m%20sure%20of%20it.”]

Is Abercrombie in desperate need of reinvention? Or should they just wait out the current fashion cycle?

DON’T MISS: Here’s Ron Johnson’s Complete U-Turn On JCPenney’s Ad Strategy >