In 2013, the Internet exploded in rage in response to comments made by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries about catering to cool kids and not serving larger customers. Since then, what have we learned?
Immediately following the controversy, the world (along with this blogger) surmised how it would affect Abercrombie sales and stock price, with many hypothesizing that nice guys still finish last, especially in an age of bullying and obesity-shaming.
The problem for the retailer is that the world continues to change, and with it the Abercrombie customer. While many cynics worry that millennial and post-millennial generations lack empathy and social skills due to increased online activity and decreased face-to-face interactions, I have always disagreed with that assertion.
We now live in a world where good news makes news on the Internet. Where our 24-hour media might fail to show us the brighter side of life, I can always count on my Facebook feed to keep me up to speed on the amazing holiday experience given to passengers on West Jet airlines, or the three strangers who met for the first time and composed an amazing jam on the spot.
At last year’s PRSA Conference, our EVP Tina Elmowitz shared takeaways about the leaders of tomorrow. She discussed how many believe generations are cyclical, repeating themselves every fourth generation. This means that millennials have similar values to the GI generation from WWI, the civic-minded do-gooders. This jives with what I see online: puppies, double rainbows and the greatest wedding dances of all times.
So if you’re Abercrombie & Fitch and your MO since 1992 is to be aloof, cool and exclusive, how does that hold up in 2014?
Well, the results are in folks and the survey says: Not well. Not well at all.
In a story about the massive adjustments to the retailer’s brand strategy, Bloomberg reported four consecutive quarters of sliding sales for Abercrombie, and a profit shrink of 77 percent last year. Plus, the stock is down 32 percent over the past 12 months.
For the first time in a long time, Abercrombie can no longer ignore its reputation issues. Jeffries has relinquished some control to his colleagues, hired a new COO and, most notably, is now offering some larger sizes. A classic T-shirt for men that is not as tight (baby steps, baby steps).
It’s been said millennials love to affect change. Congrats kids, you did it.
For more on marketing to millennials, join rbb at the Holmes Report Global PR Summit, Oct. 28-30, 2014. More details to come.