By Rebecca Jarvis, ABC News
Go to your nearest Abercrombie & Fitch, and you’re likely to find shirtless salesmen and the latest distressed denim. But if you’re looking for a women’s extra-large blouse, you’ll be out of luck. The trendy retailer apparently doesn’t want your business.
Critics have lambasted the popular casual-wear chain for eschewing clothes for overweight shoppers.
Robin Lewis, co-author of “The New Rules of Retail (2010),” says it’s all part of CEO Mike Jeffries’ master plan to cultivate what he considers cool.
“He’s been very, very successful, so he doesn’t want anybody in the store that doesn’t fit that cool, young and sexy definition,” Lewis told ABC News.
According to a University of Oregon Investment Group stock report, “Abercrombie & Fitch targets young adults aged 18-22 and sells jeans, dress shirts, shorts, fragrances, and a number of other products for both men and women.”
To get a closer look, ABC News visited the Abercrombie flagship store in New York City, where the company was founded 121 years ago, to see whether it offered something for the average woman, a size 14 in the United States.
But after scanning multiple shelves and racks, most of the sizes displayed were double-zeros and extra-smalls, with a couple of large tops and size 10 pants. Salespeople said A&F doesn’t carry XL or XXL for women.
A representative for the New Albany, Ohio-based retailer declined to comment, but in a 2006 interview, CEO Jeffries told Salon magazine, “We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
But author Lewis says it’s a model that might not fit the future. Plus-size shoppers now make up 67 percent of consumers.
“He is a brilliant visionary,” Lewis said. “He really crystallized this core consumer he was going after. I think the young people today want cool, but as they define it themselves.”
From Dove’s Real Beauty campaign highlighting heavier women, to H&M’s inclusion of plus-size swimsuit model Jennie Runk, many other brands are embracing that individualism and making their clothes more accessible.
Rival retailers H&M and American Eagle, for instance, carry sizes up to 16 and 18. The largest at Abercrombie & Fitch is a 10.