Photo Credit: Cyril Attias via Compfight
Abercrombie & Fitch is a retail store that has had its share of bad publicity over the years. It all started back in 2006 when the company was accused of purposely excluding plus-sized women from wearing clothing sold in their stores by not offering sizes above a large. However, clothing they made for men came in sizes up to XXL. The CEO of the clothing store, Mike Jeffries, commented on the accusations and his words upset a lot of consumers worldwide. Jeffries quoted, “we hire good-looking people in our stores because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” When the world heard what the company had to say, a lot of negative remarks about the store were made and sales decreased. Tim Walker posted an article online that described this event as not only bad publicity, but also as a bad business move in general. While the company’s biggest rivals were adding larger sizes to accompany more consumers, Abercrombie didn’t budge. Jeffries made it clear that he wanted to deliver a certain look and he wasn’t going to change it. Although this isn’t the first time that a retail store has been accused of discrimination, it was the apology that the CEO made that really grabbed attention from the media and consumers.
Earlier this year, the quotes that Jeffries said resurfaced after a YouTube video was posted of a man giving Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to the homeless. After this video went viral, the CEO made a public apology that stated his words were taken out of context. Many people did not believe his apology was sincere and a riot against the company began. Petitions against the company were created and business started to drop. To solve this dilemma, the company invited members of the National Eating Disorders Association to the headquarters to discuss the events that took place. Many people are still upset about the situation, but some people think that the actions the CEO took were strictly business tactics.
Jim Joseph wrote an article that explained the strategical side of the situation. In his post, he state that when removing personal emotions from the equation, the business plan behind it all is revealed. Joseph says that Jeffries was simply defining his brand and what it stands for, which is a key to good marketing. By pinpointing who the targeting consumers are, Jeffries created a well-defined market for his business. He even states that the CEO’s speech was merely a publicity stunt to get attention from the media. When looking at the situation in this way, the company achieved the success they were looking for. I thought that this was a great example of ethics versus business. Although the company did not actually do anything wrong, the public deemed it as unethical, which hurt them in the long run. I believe that an earlier apology could have really helped the company out. Since Jeffries waited nearly four years before he apologized, consumers did not buy his sincerity and believed that he was only apologizing because he got caught. However, since the targeted market was not the ones who were upset by this behavior, I do believe that the company will be able to survive this downfall and continue to have a successful business.