It’s on thing for you to have unpopular rude thoughts running through your head; it’s quite another thing entirely to let those thoughts escape through your mouth and into the waiting embrace of a journalist’s microphone. Michael Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch (we’ll see how much longer he can keep his position), thought no one was paying attention when he let some of his ideas escape through his mouth, and now he and the company he leads are suffering due to his indiscretions.
In a 2006 interview with Salon that started receiving major attention only a few weeks ago, Jeffries is quoted as agreeing that sex appeal is the cornerstone of his business. And, in keeping with the idea that sex appeal is what the Abercrombie brand is built on, Jeffries only wants those who are what he deems conventionally good-looking to model and buy the brand’s clothing. He explained the Abercrombie marketing strategy to Salon:
“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,”
Jeffries continued: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids…we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
While there is nothing wrong with a brand being exclusive and only marketing itself to a very niche market, Jeffrie’s words struck a chord because of how he said what he said. Abercrombie and Fitch does not stock extra-large or double extra-large sizes in it’s stores, which, in and of itself is nothing controversial. A&F is not the only brand to make clothing only for smaller sizes.
The problem is that Jeffries words make him sound like an asshole and they make his company sound snobbish. Even snobs don’t want to look like snobs to other people. And, considering the rising movement to put a stop to bullying and other tactics that leaves outsiders (especially those outsiders in high-school) depressed, lonely and in increased danger of committing suicide, Jeffries words make his sound as if he is a part of the problem and not a part of the solution.
Since late April when Business Insider published a story on A&F’s brand reputation–highlighting what Jeffries said in his Salon interview–and compared it to similar retailers that have begun to offer clothing in larger sizes, the company’s reputation has tanked.
Perhaps Jeffries should have keep his big mouth shut?