It Was a Good Run for Abercrombie, But…
To give complete credit where it’s due, Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan summed up Abercrombie’s and its peers’ problems perfectly, saying:
“Mall stores that sell clothing that looks like it was designed for use by a horny prep school ski team snowbound in Aspen or doomed to starve on a sailboat adrift off the Cape — American Eagle, Abercrombie, and Aeropostale — are suffering hard. According to the Huffington Post, it’s because teenagers’ tastes have changed. That’s between-the-lines talk for ‘they’re not cool anymore.'”
Harsh? Yes. Snide? A little. Accurate? Definitely.
If you look closely, the current Abercrombie apparel lineup looks a lot like the lineup from 1994 … and the lineup from 1997, and 2000, and 2004, and 2009. You get the idea. The large-lettered hooded sweatshirts and plaid button-downs remained in style far longer than most clothing fads do, but time has finally caught up with the label. Nobody wants that look anymore.
Instead, the teen crowd Abercrombie & Fitch is… er, was catering to is now spending its precious dollars on “fast fashion”, or cheaper clothing that moves from fashion shows to sales floors to kids’ closets in a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months, or years.
With fast fashion, apparel is fun, and not a competition, and the current class of teens isn’t nearly as apt to use a clothing label as a weapon in status warfare. Again, Abercrombie is being deemed the biggest victim of the new apparel-buying mindset, but American Eagle and Aeropostale are hardly immune.
There’s no need yet to write an obituary for the teen retailers’ once-relevant powerhouses, but they clearly have challenges they’re not equipped to deal with.
It can take years to shake off the damage caused by a heartless insult (intentional or not), and even if Michael Jeffries manages to stay under the radar, if he and his design team can’t let go of the 90s look they seem to love so much, the gaffe will be the least of the company’s problems.
The same goes for Aeropostale and American Eagle, even if to lesser degrees. Meanwhile, with a trip to the mall now more of a chore rather than a treat — spurring more and more online shopping — these stores are at the losing end of a shopping paradigm shift that isn’t going to reverse course anytime soon.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.