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Abercrombie & Fitch under fire over its UK recruitment policy

The retail industry has slammed Abercrombie & Fitch’s recruitment policy of targeting beautiful store assistants as the US casualwear giant debuted in the UK this week.

The retailer, known for its preppy, all-American casualwear image, has faced criticism over its recruitment policy for the 13,000 sq ft London flagship. The store, on the corner of Burlington Gardens and Savile Row, is the retailer’s first European shop.

The part-time staff are understood to include students, models and amateur sportsmen and women, plus experienced retail staff, all found by scouts. The recruits are then trained by Abercrombie & Fitch.

However, one recruitment agency director, who hires floor staff for several high street stores, said employers cannot discriminate on age and was surprised by Abercrombie & Fitch’s approach to recruitment. She said: “To discriminate on looks isn’t right. If somebody weighs 14 stone they can still sell.”

The British Retail Consortium said retailers should look for a range of qualities when recruiting, such as communication, numeracy and customer service skills.

BRC spokesman Richard Dodd said: “It’s not the best approach to recruitment. It seems there are a lot of people working for Abercrombie & Fitch that are very happy but, if you were somebody that felt you were a potential retail employee, you might feel aggrieved (if you didn’t get a job).”

Karen Dennison, principal of the Sir Philip Green-sponsored Fashion Retail Academy, which trains youngsters for a career in retail, said students were recruited to the academy based on their skills.

Abercrombie & Fitch refused to comment on the recruitment policy. However, vice president of store operations Mike Rosera said that the retailer wanted to position itself as an aspirational brand in the UK.

“We have always had a lot of British consumers at our US stores so we knew there was a lot of demand for us. We chose this location because of its heritage and authenticity, and it is a very special building. We will appeal to customers of premium brands such as Ralph Lauren and Diesel, but we are priced lower.”

He added that the company was also considering the UK for its other formats, including surfwear-based chain Hollister Co. There are no plans to wholesale Abercrombie & Fitch.

The London store occupies a Grade II-star listed building, which features minimal external branding. It sells the retailer’s full range of men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing and accessories.

The shopfit is based on the retailer’s flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The dimly-lit interior features loud dance music and includes luxury wood counters, a mezzanine floor, and murals depicting sports and heritage scenes.

ABERCROMBIE BY NUMBERS

Key prices

Women’s cotton vest top: £25

Men’s cotton T-shirt: £30

Jeans: £70

Jogging pants: £45

Store count in US and Canada:

361 Abercrombie & Fitch stores

178 Abercrombie kidswear stores

395 Hollister Co stores

15 Rhuel stores, aimed at 20- to 35-year olds.

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