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Abercrombie & Fitch updates ‘outdated’ sexy approach

Abercrombie & Fitch and its sister retailer Hollister are axing their policy to hire shop staff based on their physical attractiveness and will allow employees to dress in a more individual style.

The US young fashion retailers, which have come under fire for their recruitment policies in the past, said they would replace the sales staff job title of ‘model’ with ‘brand representative’ with immediate effect.

They also said they would stop using sexualised images in marketing and in stores by the end of July. Both have committed to stop using shirtless models for store openings and events.

Abercrombie & Fitch currently has one UK store on Savile Row in London and an outlet store in Ashford, Kent, while Hollister has 30 stores across the country and one outlet in Braintree, Essex. A spokesman said there are no plans for additional openings in the UK at the moment.

Lorna Hall, head of market intelligence at trend forecasting agency WGSN, said the changes are “long overdue”, as young fashion consumers have moved on from the heavily sexualised trend that was popular in the 2000s.

The changes have been led by former Next group product director Christos Angelides, who joined the company as president of Abercrombie & Fitch and Abercrombie Kids in October, and sister label Hollister’s brand head Fran Horowitz.

The two are trying to turn around the businesses following the departure of the group’s chief executive Mike Jeffries, who stepped down in December following several seasons of plummeting sales and profits.

The group is considering both internal and external candidates for his replacement.

Angelides, who was at Next for 28 years, told Drapers: “We are focused on the future, not the past, and there is complete alignment that these are the right changes. We have been looking for opportunities in all areas of the business. Product and customer experience are the primary focus.”

Other changes include a new incentive programme for managers introduced in February, based on sales and customer service. Store managers have also been given more autonomy for product placement within stores so they can react to local trends and make stores feel different to each other.

Stores are getting an overhaul, by reducing the perfume by as much as 25%, increasing the lighting and adjusting the music volume to create a “more pleasurable” shopping experience.

Hollister, which has previously been criticised for its dim lighting and loud music, is increasing its lighting in stores in Europe and Asia. The policy will later be rolled out to the US.

Angelides would not confirm any major changes to products but said: “Products should be original, new, trend-relevant and have reference to our brands’ heritage.”

Hall added: “Christos knows very well that product revolution can be very alienating for customers, so this is very much about subtle changes to products but most importantly getting the customer journey right.”

Abercrombie & Fitch has previously come under fire for its recruitment policy.

@Tara_Hounslea

 

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