Perception is Reality…The Saga of Abercrombie & Fitch and CEO, Mike Jeffries

When discussing quality and the various factors and dimensions that contribute to quality, we cannot overlook Dimension 9: Perception.  No matter how many of the dimensions of quality that a product or service may have, public/customer perception is inevitable and should be nurtured. It seems that the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jefferies, may have forgotten this. In the year 2006, Mike Jefferies made very controversial (and exclusionary) comments about the brand’s target consumers. As stated by Jefferies…”In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids, “Candidly, 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.” The statement not only gives the perception that kids who do not wear or cannot fit the clothing are somewhat unworthy and not allowed to be in the “in crowd” but it is also hurtful.

Since the comments made by CEO, Mike Jefferies, surfaced, Abercrombie & Fitch has had to do some major damage control but for those customers who do not fit the mode of Abercrombie & Fitch or those who are simply against this exclusionary attitude, the damage is irreparable. The perception of quality for the brand Abercrombie will no doubt suffer. I have never been a consumer of Abercrombie & Fitch for personal fashion preferences but at this point, even considering this brand or recommending it to others will be a nonoccurrence. Look at that! … someone who did not necessarily have any hard feelings toward a brand now will not even consider recommending simply based of perception.  A negative attitude toward a brand can form very quickly and this happens all of the time because a company does not take the time to consider how it actions will look in the eyes of consumers. I have no doubt that Abercrombie & Fitch sells clothes that comply with other Dimension of Quality- Reliability, Durability, Aesthetics, etc.…but if the brand is perceived as hurtful and exclusionary to anyone who does not fit the mode, purchasing or any recommendation for others to purchase will not even be considered.

As stated before,  Abercrombie & Fitch has had to do some major damage control after the unapologetic comments that CEO, Mike Jefferies has made on behalf of the company; issuing a sincere apology to those who may have offended. The image of Abercrombie & Fitch itself should also be considered for revision. The images that the company releases for the purpose of advertising all portray a specific group of individuals, not leaving any room for interpretation. If Abercrombie changed that very influential aspect of the brand…things could change for the better, almost immediately.

What do you think about the comments made by CEO, Mike Jefferies?
Has something of this nature ever stopped you from supporting a company?



14 thoughts on “Perception is Reality…The Saga of Abercrombie & Fitch and CEO, Mike Jeffries

  1. I do not agree with some of these perceptions of the A&F brand. I have worked with Abercrombie and Fitch for over 3 years in my lifetime and played a huge role to my store. Yes, Jefferies’ comment in 2006 may have been inappropriate but he apologized and in no way does that reflect the brand today. I do not think the single comment is the reason Abercrombie has been hurting. The main factor of A&F’s recent decline was bad economy which hit around 2008 and the fact that we still didn’t offer deals and discounts until around 2011. People’s memories fade to comments such as those and do not carry through for everyone’s perception on the brand. Yes, Abercrombie and affiliated brands have small sized clothing and a certain styles, but so what? They have a certain target market they want to reach and same goes for stores such as Hot Topic and Torrid. Hot Topic’s target market are for young, more Gothic and characterized styles. As for Torrid who sells plus sized clothing, their target market is that of women who are of larger sizes. Certain stores can sell clothes for a certain market. Why is A&F targeted? If you know the clothes don’t fit you right or you don’t like their style then don’t shop there – simple as that. It’s not a Walmart or a Target where they have to try to appeal to everyone. It simply knows what customers to target and succeeds at that. Diversity is also one of the main objectives at Abercrombie and their affiliated brands. The purpose is to have a recognized and reliable brand. A&F has been around for a long time, and personally I believe it’s publicized a lot because of previous cases, because it’s so well-known and because it’s any easy target. But in no way do I believe because of past issues and being an easy target, which means that A&F is talked about a lot, that it’s actually a bad brand. I believe A&F has had it’s issues and has taken the necessary steps to correct them and I will continue to support them.

  2. After reading the quote by the CEO was he wrong, no. Was he political wrong, yes. Being politically correct is about saying the right things, and hoping to get the least amount of negative feedback, but it is not always the truth? Is what the CEO of Abercrombie said true, not at all. People wear certain clothes because their friends do, or they think it looks good, or even influences from TV. Clothes are not subjective to your popularity, they are subjective to what you enjoy. Was it rude what the CEO said, of course it was, he called out millions of adolescents; basically saying that their way of life is the wrong way. However, would his comments stop me from buying the Abercrombie clothes line, probably not. But it doesn’t matter, becuase I personally don’t think their clothes are very good to begin with.

  3. As Americans are becoming more and more health conscious, obese people are more and more frowned upon in our culture today. Was the CEO wrong to say it the way he did? Absolutely. But people need to start feeling the push to get fit and be healthy. There are stores that specifically make clothes for plus sized people, and there are stores that only make clothes for petite people. It’s not an unheard of thing. I think Abercrombie should have thought twice about the way they worded their statement, but they are trying to reach a certain niche of people, which we have learned is a marketing strategy. Some companies like Dove are trying to push that every woman of every size can be beautiful, which is their own marketing strategy. But think about it…they sell soap! Abercrombie is trying to reach teenagers, so it’s a very different market. I believe that the company is probably seeing a loss in sales because of the comment, but I don’t think it’s wrong for companies to be supportive of a fit, and healthy nation. We are one of the most obese nations in the world, and I think we need more people who are going to opt for a healthy and fit America.

  4. I think CEO, Mike Jefferies is rude or he tries to push customers to be cool kids. I think what he said for cool kids and not so cool kids, here existed discrimination. I do not think that they are target cool kids, but they are trying to separate cool kids and not cool kids, and this company may affect kids spiritual hurting. There is video about A&F; recently, it is about a man find A&F clothes in thrift stores and give those A&F clothes to homeless. It showed that who said homeless or not cool kids or adults cannot wear A&F clothes. Personally, I don’t shop clothes at A&F. It has same quality clothes like other clothing stores, but they always have higher sale price than others. And I would choose a health companies to shop.

  5. Great post. In my opinion this story was a little overblown. Here we have a CEO, speaking his mind, on what he believes in and what he says his company stands for. If anything we need more CEO’s like him. No one is forced to buy at a particular store and the chances are that the customers that weren’t shopping there are the ones that are voicing their opinion louder than anyone else. The customers that were buying at the time the comment was made should feel more inclusive as they are the “cool kids” that shop at Abercrombie & Fitch.

    As stated, if someone does not like a specific target market a company tries to market to, than there are tons of other choices, especially in the apparel industry.

  6. I think this a great post. I read about this a few weeks ago and was immediately taken aback by the fact that the CEO would make statements as blatantly disgusting as these. As a person, he should feel embarrassed for publicly making this statements, especially being a person of clear influence and power. As a business however, it is sad to say, this isn’t necessarily the worst behind-the-scenes idea. (STRICTLY BEHIND THE SCENES) Products these days are all about exclusivity, and what better way to accomplish that than by ruling out the automatically “uncool.” I am by no means advocating these types of business policies or personal conduct, but is interesting as a ploy.

  7. Mike Jefferies is only stating Abercrombie & Fitch’s main mission of their business. Even though it is the truth, it would obviously hurt the brand’s image. It is true they only target the wealthy. Their clothes sizing would not exceed extra large to prevent people of their ideal size to wear it. The clothes expectations are tailored to their ideal group of people. Yes, I would feel offended and result in not purchasing any of their products.

  8. I definitely think the comments made by Mike Jefferies hurt the company’s image. While I don’t think it was a secret that Abercrombie and Fitch went after a certain target group, it was not smart of him to make those comments. I feel like a lot of people would be offended by the statement, “A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and can’t belong.” I, personally, would hesitate to continue shopping at a store that made comments similar to those. As the CEO of a company, you should be encouraging as many people as possible to buy your product, not limiting the number of buyers.

  9. I think the comments that Mike Jefferies made were a little out of line. That being said, he is the CEO of the company and can really say whatever he wants. I am not a customer of this brand but I can see that there could be some backlash because of these comments. The one thing that intrigued me was that the day after he made these comments the stock price rose a few percent. I figured there would be the opposite affect in the market. I think Jefferies was just trying to position the brand but I think he crossed the line and addressed the public rudely.

  10. Even when Abercombie and Fitch was considered “cool” in the early 2000’s I feel like they did appeal to the “cool kids” but that was something that did not need to be publicly said. By their CEO coming out and making those statements they have severely compromised their public image. With this new public image created, people are only going to think about how terrible of a person the CEO is when they see the stores or even if someone is wearing their clothes. Apparently sales are down 13% recently which I’m sure is a huge cut from what their revenue.

  11. I think Mike Jefferies’ comment was inappropriate and completely unprofessional. Yes, Abercrombie and Fitch has always appealed to be the brand of the cooler kids. I went to a prep high school and that’s all we wore to fit in. However, cool or uncool the clothes were and still are expensive, so poorer kids had a harder time fitting in. I think that is why A&F has been doing poorly because of the decline in the economy and their continuously ridiculous prices they charge for clothes. The fact that he made that comment may have burned some bridges with customers, but each store has their own target market group.

  12. I think that a lot of companies think like Mike does, they just don’t always say it. One that has said something is Chic-fil-et. they are against gay marriage and for the most part it is irreparable with just an apology. that is the one company that I have been turned off of for their comments. I used to work at Hollister, and while I had an idea of what was happening, I think I was too young to understand it. I felt included and important working there. It was nice as a 17 year old but now my perspective has shifted to pathetic. I do not agree with their company at all.

  13. I think that Mike is the only one who will be honest enough to admit it to the world. Is he correct, no! I remember being in high school and reading about this, he had law suits against the company for discrimination with people working there I believe. I think that he has done more harm for the company than good. His best interest should be his consumers (all of them) because we live in a society where we are actually paying attention and following companies that value what we do.

  14. I thought this was a great article and this topic has been in the news a lot lately. I agree with what Mike said above about how companies may think this way but they do not always say it in the public. I use to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch awhile ago and I have noticed that a lot of the workers are all the same. They all depict what the CEO said about having all the “cool kids in school”. I do not really see anything wrong with targeting that group because it is a business and they are in it to make money. Most kids want to be “cool” and will follow the trends that the popular kids do. I am sure though, he will loose a good number of customers but the company will still continue to strive on.

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