By Joseph Valencia ’17
In 2013, Michael Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch admitted to trying to create a niche market for cool, good-looking people.
He hired attractive employees called “models” to promote the brand, basing the hiring decision on sex appeal, according to an interview with Business Insider. The shirtless guys sometimes seen standing outside an Abercrombie and Fitch store are some of these “models.”
“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores,” Jeffries said. “Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
While Jeffries maintained the right to market as he saw fit, his exclusive market targeted at attractive teenagers was an inappropriate strategy. It alienated people who didn’t fit into Jeffries’s niche market, and established a sense of bodily superiority in clothing.
Aside from their model-based marketing strategy, Abercrombie and Fitch doesn’t make any size of clothing over large or any pant sizes larger than 10 for women.
Jeffries also admitted that this was part of his sex-appeal marketing strategy and refused to apologize.
This was a poor decision on his part, as it only served to legitimize the anger that was directed at him.
Jeffries was met with massive backlash from the many communities of the Internet. It’s amazing to see that the Internet, a disjointed community where people rarely agree with each other, came together to decry the business practices of one company.
In the uproar that ensued, some older interviews with Jeffries began to surface. Probably the most damaging was a 2006 interview with Salon.
“We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends,” Jeffries said. “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Following the resurgence of this statement, people as well as investors began to lose interest in Abercrombie and Fitch. According to Forbes, company shares sunk 35 percent from June to December in 2014.
Following the loss of business, Jeffries decided to resign as CEO.
“I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development,” he said.
Since Jeffries’s departure from Abercrombie and Fitch, the company has been searching for a new CEO. However, according to Fortune, as of Dec. 23 of last year, the company has suspended its search.
Currently, the company is headed by the Office of the Chairman, a board composed of three company executives. They’re leading the company in the absence of a CEO.
As the chairmen search for a new CEO, they’re also trying to undo the damage Jeffries did to the company. Hopefully, they’ll take a more inclusive stance and bolster their customer base through accessible and diverse clothing.