Abercrombie & Fitch is Trying to Grow Up

Clothing company pursues old fans with new initiatives.

The ripped denim skirt, the pastel polo with the moose logo and, of course, the shopping bag with the photograph of a very toned male model — at its heyday in the mid- to late-2000s, all these Abercrombie & Fitch  (ANF) – Get Abercrombie & Fitch Company Report staples could be seen on the teens at any suburban shopping mall. 

Even though the brand has been around since 1892, Abercrombie & Fitch’s “All-American” style has come to symbolize everything from status (far from every parent was willing to spend $40 on a t-shirt) to fitting in for a generation of “younger millennials” born between 1988 and 1996.

Times have changed and that preppy look has largely gone out of style for the more “artsy” and “individual” one favored by Generation Z. 

Abercrombie & Fitch’s stock hit $84.51 at its peak in October 2007, at the height of its ultra-preppy popularity. It trades around $20 now.

In the 15 years that passed, the clothing brand has tried many strategies to stay relevant and retain its young buyer base — from lowering prices and evolving its clothing styles to attempts to rebrand itself as a “welcoming” and “inclusive” brand.

How Much Can You Count On That Millennial Loyalty ?

Abercrombie & Fitch’s new strategy, however, is to try to bring back the generation that once loved it — the brand just announced that it announced a new “getaway” retail concept aimed specifically at 25- to 35-year-olds.

While still presented as Abercrombie & Fitch storefronts, the two new stores in Los Angeles’ Del Amo Fashion Center and Il Centro Shopping Center in Italy’s Milan will have sections divided by the way the brand imagines a typical person of that group spends their day.

One section will have clothes for the office while another will others will feature athleisure for the gym and errands or dressier clothes for 5 p.m. drinks. The goal is to make “every day feel as exceptional as the start of a long weekend,” the company said in a press release.

“Abercrombie’s young millennial and zillennial customers continue to utilize our stores for a variety of needs — whether it’s discovering new products and trends, picking up online orders, connecting with friends virtually or IRL, figuring out their best fit, or simply enjoying the brand experience,” Carey Krug, SVP and head of marketing for Abercrombie brands, said in a statement.

Will ANF Sales (and Stock) Be Receptive?

The two stores are a pilot project meant to gauge interest in such a concept — the Italian one is also meant to see if it will be popular abroad, where the “all-American style” sometimes finds a stronger audience.

Despite ebbs and flows and some seasons with stronger earnings, Abercrombie & Fitch’s popularity has largely been on a downward spiral (stock fell by nearly 50% year-over-year) and may require a stronger comeback story.

With the youngest millennial now 25 or 26, this audience may have also definitively moved on to other brands and more adult clothing aesthetics.

As such, several analysts believe that the brand’s concurrent strategy of trying to build a TikTok audience and prioritize digital shopping may be more successful in reviving its “cool” status.

“Brands are turning to TikTok to appeal to a different audience,” Danielle Wiley, CEO of influencer marketing shop Sway Group, told Digiday. “It gives them the opportunity to change their image. If they were considered stuffy, their presence on the platform can change that perception and project a brand image that is more fun and youthful.”

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