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Deal Divas

Stephanie Hayes, Katie Sanders, Kameel Stanley, & Keyonna Summers

Ugly, overweight or just plain uncool? You're also unwelcome at A&F

Trying to drum up business for your clothing empire? Do you:

A) Use that old and busted marketing ploy of appealing to big spenders via creative print, radio and television advertisements? OR...

B) Alienate half your potential customer base, thus making them clamor for your product even more?

If your name is Mike Jeffries and you’re CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, option B is apparently the new hotness.

Jeffries’ 2006 comments to Salon resurfaced last week with the debut of “The New Rules of Retail,” a book which reveals the clothing honcho’s views on average-looking and fuller-figured shoppers remain a firm persona non grata.

The target audience for Abercrombie & Fitch – whose women’s line stops at size 10 – is, Jeffries told Salon, the thin and beautiful.

"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," Jeffries said. "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. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody:young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either."

The chain, he continued, hires only “good-looking people” because they attract folks like them and “we don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Sorry, that was the sound of me picking up my jaw off the keyboard.

Look, we’ve all heard the saying that any publicity that gets people talking is (supposedly) good publicity. But at the expense of inciting backlash and even revenge in the very people you want to reach??

(For the record, this Deal Diva – a bona fide nerd since 1983 – has never had a desire to shop Abercrombie’s nauseatingly perfumed, dimly lit aisles, as the clothes just aren’t my style. But even if I were cool enough, Abercrombie’s past battles against race discrimination lawsuits hint that I probably wouldn’t belong anyway.)

Book author Robin Lewis calls Jeffries a “brilliant visionary,” but notes that the fashion mogul might want to modify his tactics since 67 percent of American consumers are plus-sized: “I think the young people today want cool, but as they define it themselves.”

What’s your take, fashionistas and fashionistos? Are you fans of Abercrombie clothing? Are you offended by the CEO’s comments? Or do you say it’s par for the course?

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:03pm]


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