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Speed and distinctiveness. These are the new keys to selling to adolescent customers. Rather than sporting similarly logoed shirts and the same jeans worn by all their peers, today’s young shoppers want something unique, something that no one else will have, and something that appeared in stores only yesterday and likely will be gone tomorrow.

Such desires come in direct conflict with the business models that helped Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, and American Eagle Outfitters enjoy substantial success in the last decade. Whereas once upon a time, every high school classroom would have contained a large percentage of students sporting an A&F logo, today those same teens aim to communicate their individuality by dressing differently than the kid sitting next to or behind them.

Article 1In response, these retailers are scrambling to reinvent themselves and pulling back from some of the stances they previously called foundational to their brands. Abercrombie & Fitch once asserted it would never carry clothing in black; there is plenty of this dark hue on its racks today. In addition, its dimly lit stores, with their loud, thumping music, are being replaced by brighter lighting, front window displays, and somewhat quieter (though still thumping) music.

Over at American Eagle, the reinvention focuses on making better connections, particularly by linking to its customers through social media. Simultaneously, it has changed its marketing approach to feature actual customers in its advertising, rather than gorgeous models.

The stores also are searching for ways to cut their prices, to compete better with the popular fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara. But in many cases, they have slim margins available to do so. As a result, both Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle have announced they will be closing dozens of their stores, in an effort to halt their tumbling stock prices.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are Abercrombie & Fitch and similar retailers having problems with their traditional target market?
  2. What are these retailers trying to do about the problem?
  3. Do you believe they will succeed?


Source: Sarah Halzack, Washington Post, August 24, 2014