After another financial results indicating lower than usual sales, troubled teen retailers Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister have ditched the sexy-sales approach of shirtless, buff guy models, and are moving towards a more laid-back, Americana tone. Like American Apparel moving in the direction of Gap, so too is Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister having to revamp their gameplane. Again.
Of course in the case of Abercrombie & Fitch, it didn’t help that their designs have been off for a couple of years, and pricing did not match the current state of the youth market, as we revealed in our Spring Youth Culture Study 2015. In addition, former CEO Michael Jeffries made situations worse by saying things that only certain types of thin, good-looking people were meant for his brand. The brand backlash Abercrombie & Fitch continues to receive from the marketplace is enormous, even though Jeffries was fired in December, 2014, and quite possibly a situation from they will never recover.
So, the bland, mainstream approach is their next direction. As we’ve proven in our youth culture research, sex doesn’t necessarily sell when it comes to young people today. However, there are plenty of ways to create fashion that appeals to various youth markets. Having the angle, insights, and creativity to match specific lifestyles are key. But therein is the problem with brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and the Gap—trying to appeal to everyone means a watered-down version of appealing to no one. Take McDonald’s for example, and the problems they’ve been facing for years with trying to appeal to a new demographic of informed and growingly diverse population.
Other changes include bringing on a more diverse sales force, creating less disturbing lighting, and changing the music to something that’s more on target with the marketplace they are trying to appeal. This is sounding more like a copycat version of Urban Outfitters than a Gap direction, but not quite a Hot Topic yet.
Most of these changes are meant to be installed by July of this year. We’ll see if this makes a difference.