Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Business

August 27, 2012

Abercrombie sales slide as half-naked models underwhelm

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

It's up to 68-year-old Chief Executive Officer Mike Jeffries, who made Abercrombie cool, to connect with the new generation, Lindstrom said.

Abercrombie declined to comment for this story through spokeswoman Mackenzie Bruce and wouldn't confirm Jeffries' age, which was listed in public records.

After taking the helm in 1992, Jeffries turned a chain that originally made safari and camping gear for the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway into a teen emporium where sex met Ivy League. He used Abercrombie's reputation for quality to charge more for youthful styles, recruiting all- American teens and college-aged kids to model and work as salespeople. Risqué quarterly catalogs enraged religious groups. In 1999, the boy band LFO paid homage with its top-10 song "Summer Girls," which included the lyrics: "I like girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch / I'd take her if I had one wish."

The Jeffries formula worked from 1995 into 2008, when the company boosted sales more than 20-fold and net income more than 56-fold. Then the world changed. The downturn made it hard for Abercrombie, long an aspirational brand, to keep selling $70 jeans when similar styles could be purchased elsewhere for $40, and Abercrombie's customers began moving on.

Today's teens are "radically different" from other generations, including Millennials now in their 20s, because they are rejecting uniforms, according to Marcie Merriman, founder of retail and brand strategy consultancy PrimalGrowth in Columbus, Ohio.

Dubbed Generation C — for creative and connected — they have a bevy of clothing options thanks to the boom in fast- fashion from Forever 21 Inc. and Hennes & Mauritz's H&M, said Merriman, who has consulted for Jack Daniels and Nike and is a former director of brand planning and strategy for Limited Brands's Victoria's Secret. Gen C also has developed a more individual style from the Web and social media, she said.

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