Reporting another year of sub-par sales results in early March, the executive team at Abercrombie & Fitch mentioned that it was retooling its brands' store experiences and looking into turning down the music, turning on the lights and retraining the sales staff.
Well, friends, the day has come. The retailer has released a new set of store policies, starting with the discontinued use of shirtless lifeguards and models at Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch store openings and events. In fact, all "sexualized marketing" will be banished by the end of July. No more shirtless dudes at the door, no more shirtless dudes on the bag you carry out of the store.
(There will, however, be shirtless models on A&F's "Fierce" cologne, because that's "consistent with the fragrance industry." You know what they say: it's fine if other people are doing it.)
Instead, the new marketing is taking a turn for the friendly and laid back, more in line with something American Eagle would put out. Like this:
The company is also making good on its plan to make the sensory experience in stores less epically unsettling, meaning it's adjusting the lighting, music and smell of the place. Hollister has already "increased lighting significantly" in Europe and Asia and is working to extend that to the U.S. We're assuming that involves design and installation, rather than just, you know, turning the lights on.
On a more serious note, it also seems to be making a push toward creating a more diverse and welcoming environment for sales associates, particularly relevant given that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just brought to the Supreme Court a case in which Abercrombie & Fitch denied a young Muslim woman a job because she wore a headscarf. The company has now adopted a less restrictive dress code and no longer has a "Hairstyle Guide" or "Closed Toe Shoe List" in place.
The change in policy is, at least in part, tied to the December departure of former CEO Michael Jeffries, who had a reputation for promoting a culture of exclusivity at Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. But for all the old Abercrombie's failings, you can't say it didn't have a tight, unmistakable aesthetic, raising the question of whether and how the brand can create an identity that sharp once again.