Is Abercrombie & Fitch Ready To Let Go Of Its (Mildly) Aging Shoppers?

Are the youthful shoppers of Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) aging out? Business Insider is raising questions about whether the chain has failed to attract the interest of today's younger shoppers, a prospect made more challenging by comments from CEO Michael Jeffries--suggesting that only beautiful people should wear his chain's clothes—that many saw as offensive.

"Its heyday was during a resurgence in preppy fashion and it's had a tough time figuring out how to embrace the new quirky, hipster style. Abercrombie has also struggled in Europe, where it was banking on major growth," the story said. "The company must decide: Does it evolve to chase its aging consumers, or start targeting new, younger ones?"

This is the price that a retailer has to pay when it's selling image. An attempt to sell to much younger shoppers today has the potential to alienate current (slightly older) shoppers, who will think that the brand is no longer positioned precisely to them. Traditionally, teen brands deal with this by focusing solely on that demographic and not worrying when shoppers age out, confident that new shoppers will simultaneously be aging in. But A&F has tried to keep much of the new and the old segments and the image-only brand is struggling with making that work. And sporting a "non-cool people need not apply" attitude isn't helping when many shoppers—including self-conscious teens—think of themselves as less-than-cool.

The story quoted an anonymous A&F employee suggesting that the chain may now be ready to shift gears: "We are continually evaluating opportunities and looking for the best ways to do business. We recently conducted a global research study on what our consumers think, and the data may lead us to make further changes throughout the business."

The story also quoted retail observer Robin Lewis saying that he thinks the chains will continue to focus on youth, opting to let its older shoppers leave. "My opinion is that he probably will not go the direction of chasing after his aging original consumer," Lewis said. "He'll continue to try to keep the brand's positioning for young, sexy, cool, people intact."

For more:
- See Business Insider story

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