Feature

A retail bully gets its comeuppance

Abercrombie & Fitch is “a schoolyard bully”

Tom KeaneThe Boston Globe

Abercrombie & Fitch is “a schoolyard bully,” said Tom Keane. Finally, it’s taking the heat it has long deserved for a marketing strategy that intentionally excludes bigger or overweight customers. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids,” CEO Michael Jeffries said in a quote that recently resurfaced. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” If you want to see A&F’s attitude in action, look at its sizing charts: The store refuses to carry women’s clothes in size XL or pant sizes above 10, when the American woman’s average size is 14 (it carries men’s sizes up to XXL). This misguided strategy “legitimizes that worst of adolescent rites: the creation of cliques.” A&F’s self-proclaimed role as the arbiter of what’s cool is “so over-the-top as to seem absurd,” but the controversy has forced even kids “to think hard about the pressures under which we put girls.” And Abercrombie seems to be paying the price: Sales and stock prices are plunging. Jeffries, whose position is now rumored to be in jeopardy, apparently made “one critical miscalculation.” In his arrogance, he seems to have missed that “for many of today’s teens, one thing that is not cool is making fun of others.”

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