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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.