Abercrombie to Stop Terrorizing Malls with Ear-Splitting Techno

Pedestrians walk pass a giant display ad for the retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch, on Saturday, May 14, 2005 on New York's Fifth Avenue. Abercrombie & Fitch is expected to release earnings after the market close on Tuesday, May 17, 2005. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato) -- 0609opedkeane

Abercrombie & Fitch* had a rough fall out of favor with teens from their cushy glory days. With sales tanking, CEO Mike Jefferies was put in the spotlight as a bigoted jerk (and finally, that wasn’t seen as a cool thing anymore) and then was swiftly ousted from his role as the company’s chairman, leaving the retailer with the opportunity for a fresh start. And apparently, they’re looking to take it down many, many notches — starting with the volume.

According to Bloomberg, Abercrombie & Fitch and its subsidiaries, Hollister Co., abercrombie, and Gilly Hicks, will be changing both their store merchandising and sales experiences, as well as the apparel itself. They report:

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In addition to selling black clothes, a first, Abercrombie has added larger sizes; a “classic fit” T-shirt for men, available online for the back-to-school season, is looser than the company’s standard muscle-style shirt. The brands’ moose, seagull and lettered logos, once plastered on almost every product, are disappearing. And Abercrombie is partnering with other brands to produce new items, including a line of sneakers from Keds.

Michael S. Jeffries, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, speaks at the annual National Retail Federation conference Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) 09Keane
Michael S. Jeffries, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, in 2009.

Black apparel — on the sales floor and its associates — was previously strictly prohibited at the retailer and only a limited array of notoriously small sizing had been stocked because, as Jeffries told Salon in 2006, “... we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Needless to say, the retailer has had a bit of an image problem.

The updated Abercrombie & Fitch locations will trade their shutters and shades for window displays, while Hollister Co. will turn that racket down (but not all the way) and tone down the heavy cloak of cologne that smacks consumers in the face the minute they walk up that porch. The changes are part of a strategy to appeal to the next generation of teens, who apparently are not swayed by the wall-size posters of glistening abs and rustic wood cases of hemp anklets. The proposed decor will be revamped to include merchandised window displays and artwork of models wearing — you know, their clothes.

Jeffries told Bloomberg that despite slipping sales, he believes the company remains “very sound,” however “its customer is changing,” which ultimately a nice way of saying, “it’s not me, it’s you,” but with retail. According to Time, if the test stores on the company’s Columbus campus bode well with teens, a nationwide remodel rollout will follow.

* Full disclosure: This reporter worked as a “brand rep” at Hollister and Abercrombie for several summers between the years 2005-2008. Yes, her ears are still ringing.