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A call for the firing of Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries

Old comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO have led to an apology for misinterpretations of the prejudiced words, but the gesture may not be enough.

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Abercrombie: apologies will never be enough

Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has come under attack recently about previous statements made in 2006 which have re-emerged to take the internet by storm. Thanks to social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and others, the outcry has been loud and resonating.

A&F’s CEO Mike Jeffries attempted a half-hearted, at best, apology this week saying, “While I believe this 7 year old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context, I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense.”

It’s obvious in this statement that Jeffries is still blaming others for “interpreting” his comments “in a manner” that wasn’t how he supposedly intended. When he said A&F is “absolutely exclusionary” and only markets to “cool, good-looking people,” we’re supposed to believe there’s an alternative way to interpret that statement other than the obvious? No, there’s only one interpretation and that’s what people are justifiably outraged about.

Bringing prejudices to light

Even more telling is a recent meeting held between Abercrombie executives and teen protesters at which Jeffries was not present. In the meeting, Benjamin O’Keefe, who created a Change.org petition, pleaded with the executives to change their company’s “DNA.”

Furthermore, what is an aging and obsolete individual like Jeffries doing judging other people? He’s not some icon of saintly virtue or sexiness, he doesn’t give unselfishly to the community, but yet he points a finger at others and deems them unworthy of over-priced clothing that will fall out of fashion in its own time and way. And the reality is, this media storm has brought his prejudices to light and painted him in a spotlight so bright it’s blinding. Woe to the retailer who incurs such public wrath.

How A&F can apologize

If Abercrombie & Fitch as a company wants to truly apologize, they will fire their CEO. Immediately. Without any bonuses or benefits, because it’s a guarantee that if another employee other than a top executive had made those comments, not only would they be in court, but fired immediately.

Abercrombie’s continued allowance of this individual to represent the company is unacceptable and makes Jeffries’ apology worth less than the paper or screen it appears on. It’s obvious from his statement that Jeffries is only pandering to the media and telling consumers what he thinks they want to hear to save face. It will not work.

For A&F to repair the damage, it will undoubtedly take time. They need to find new leadership that will help steer the company in a better, more positive direction. And it’s possible for retailers to be properly exclusionary toward your market without being ignorant or prejudiced in the process. Let this be a warning to retailers everywhere: the American public will hold you accountable. Corporate executives must be held responsible for their actions.

Charity Kountz is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction author as well as a Realtor and certified Paralegal. Her writing has been featured in Coldwell Banker, iPhone Life, Strategy magazine, Duck Soup magazine, and more.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Chris Johnston

    May 24, 2013 at 8:34 am

    “If Abercrombie & Fitch as a company wants to truly apologize, they will fire their CEO. Immediately. Without any bonuses or benefits”

    Unfortunately this is a fantasy that will never happen, there is a reason those executive packages are called golden parachutes, and often negotiated in advance. Despite all the public outrage has the stock price taken a dip? Well, the answer is no. In the last month the stock has risen 17%, and as a CEO one his prime motivations (and usually something his bonus is based on) is an increase in value for the shareholders; he has delivered that.

    If people are really outraged by Abercrombie, they would stop buying their clothes. People who don’t wear Abercrombie getting mad at Abercrombie just proves all along what the CEO was saying.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 24, 2013 at 10:27 am

      Although I agree Jeffries should get the boot, I too believe Abercrombie should be on the “no buy” list for people who hate his philosophy. We showed our teen the #fitchthehomeless video (alluded to in the story above) and she sent it to all of her friends, so that’s 25 teen girls who have vowed to get rid of and stop buying A&F. And they have. By choice. That’s how the free market works. It’s beautiful.

      • Charity Kountz

        May 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

        I’m so glad to hear that Lani! That’s great! Together we can make a difference, I just know it! I’ve started a twitter & FB campaign to help raise awareness too. Thanks for assigning this topic to me, who knew I’d become so opinionated? lol

  2. Charity Kountz

    May 24, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I absolutely agree with you Chris – it’s a fantasy. But both could work to solve the situation – not buying the clothes and keeping the heat on the retailer’s executive team. While I realize they’re unlikely to eliminate him without benefits, they CAN and SHOULD eliminate him, regardless of contract. Look at what JCPenney did to their CEO – yes, there were performance issues but with the level of bad press the retailer is getting, it should be getting A&F’s attention and concern. Great comment @techchris:disqus! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Zach Paul Bowyer

    May 26, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I spent $500 on new clothes this past week IN OTHER STORES. I used to be a serious A&F customer but no more. It’s really too embarrassing.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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