Logo change marks the end of Abercrombie and Fitch’s ‘cool rule’

Once considered one of the hottest brands in the fashion industry, Abercrombie & Fitch has been dealing with its 10th consecutive quarter with a reported decline…

Male models cheer at the Abercrombie & Fitch Shanghai Flagship Store Opening on April 19, 2014 in Shanghai, China. The young fashion chain has lost some of its cool factor and with it a logo change. (Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images)

Once considered one of the hottest brands in the fashion industry, Abercrombie & Fitch has been dealing with its 10th consecutive quarter with a reported decline in sales, forcing it to ditch its logo to fight criticism over what the brand represents.

It’s a move to win back lost consumers. Just ten years ago, A&F was widely considered one of the hottest brands in the fashion industry, but the past decade has brought major changes as sales and profitability have dropped consistently.

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In light of the declining demand, A&F has decided to drop what was once the most recognizable aspect of its brand: the A&F logo. As Abercrombie’s C.E.O, Mike Jeffries, told reporters in a public statement, “In the spring season, we’re looking to take the North American logo business to practically nothing.”

The brand’s rapid decline in popularity over the past ten years has been the result of a myriad of factors, including bad publicity, high costs, and growing competitors.

As Jack Linshi of Time Magazine explains, “The retailer reported its 10th straight decline in quarterly sales on Thursday, with net sales decreasing by 6% to $891 million, according to an earnings conference call. Shares dropped as much as 8.5% after the announcement.”

The unprecedented reversal of fortune ultimately boils down to bad PR stemmed by controversial comments made by Jeffries and the coming-of-age of alternative and cheaper competitors such as Zara.

“The shedding of logos on most Abercrombie clothing is the company’s latest rebranding effort as it regains its footing from a over decade of bad publicity,” Linshi reported in his piece. “Abercrombie settled for $50 million in 2004 after being sued for discrimination against racial minorities. Last year, quotes made by Jeffries during a 2006 interview resurfaced; he had said the brand targeted “cool, good-looking people,” a statement that generated heavy, even viral backlash.”

Further, Abercrombie & Fitch’s once-successful strategy of promoting exclusivity as an intrinsic aspect of its brand has taken a turn for the worse as of late. To this day, A&F prices remain significantly higher than those of competitors such as Forever 21 and Zara that target the same youth market.

Vauhini Vara of The New Yorker traces the original change in attitude towards A&F’s once-successful exclusivity branding efforts to the Great Recession.

As Vara suggests, “This attitude started working against Abercrombie during the recession, around 2008. That’s when Wissink [a fashion business analyst] started noticing fewer Abercrombie logos in the schools she visited; people (young, old, fat, skinny) could no longer afford Abercrombie’s prices for T-shirts and hoodies. Around this the time, H&M and Forever 21 started to thrive by selling super-cheap, accessible runway knockoffs. The economy has recovered since then, but the turn toward ‘fast fashion’ proved durable.”

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Ultimately, the new paradigm of youth consumership in the fashion industry has led A&F to do what would’ve once seemed inconceivable by dropping its logo. C.E.O Mike Jeffries hopes that the move will rekindle interest in the “fashion” aspect of the brand and bring back lost consumers.

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