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The Reports of Abercrombie & Fitch's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

The Reports of Abercrombie & Fitch's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Netflix is about to release “White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch.” In reality, the brand is flourishing with smart Gen Z marketing.

Netflix:  “All the cool kids were wearing it. This documentary explores A&F’s pop culture reign in the late ’90s and early 2000s and how it thrived on exclusion.”

If you worked in marketing back then, perhaps you’ll recall that the company discriminated based on religion and race. And there were other terrible marketing decisions that led to the CEO’s exit in 2014.

But the “Rise and Fall” title is an unfair smear on Abercrombie & Fitch’s *current* management team. They actually deserve credit. For example:

The brand never crashed. Even during the management transition, revenue never dipped below the $3B to $4B range.

And now the company is arguably stronger than ever. Sales rose by 19% to $3.7B in 2021. The stock gains are beating competitors.

Management has overhauled the culture.  In recent years, the company has won awards for DEI initiatives.  It was named by Fortune, as a 2021 Best Workplace in Retail.

Lastly, and perhaps its most impressive feat: the brand is winning with Gen Z.  For example:

Creating comfortable apparel with guidance from consumer qualitative research

Plenty of apparel brands avoid formal research projects.  A&F on the other hand, has clearly been paying attention to Gen Z’s demand for comfort. And delivering.

Last month, A&F launched YPB, (“Your Personal Best”) an activewear sub brand.  According to a press release, “designers spent hundreds of hours conducting fit research on models across genders, sizes, shapes and heights.” YPB’s team held focus groups with customers and key fitness and lifestyle influencers, “refining designs to ensure seaming, stretch, and details like pocket angles and drawstrings could all help customers move freely and comfortably.”

Meeting Gen Z where they want to shop, via omnichannel tactics

A&F has trimmed larger stores and replaced them with smaller, more efficient stores, in more off-mall locations. Stock selection is based more in local data.

The company has also stepped up social engagement, gathering data and partnering with leading influencers on TikTok. The result has been a 45% increase in digital sales in 2021, now comprising 48% of total sales.

Bottom line: These are just some of management’s smart moves.  Expect this “fallen” brand to continue growing in 2022.