The decision of US retailer Abercrombie & Fitch to drop its distinctive moose logo has come as a shock to many in the industry. The decision, made under the leadership of CEO Michael Jeffries, is a last ditch attempt to revive the fortunes of the company, but many experts believe the removal of the logo from all products in the spring 2015 range is a big mistake.
The retailer, which has 163 stores outside the US (where it has 843) is a “preppy” speciality store aimed at teenagers with considerable disposable income (more likely to be their parents’ rather than their own). A&F’s decision, inspired by similar success stories such as Tommy Hilfiger, is a make or break moment for the company. Unlike Hilfiger, which dropped its logo in an attempt to move its focus away from a brand-conscious to a more sophisticated clientele, A&F has not switched its focus.
Founded in Manhattan in 1892 by David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch, the company initially sold outdoor and sporting goods, but declared bankruptcy in 1976 and the name was eventually acquired by clothing chain Limited in 1988, at which time it relocated from Manhattan to Columbus, Ohio.
A&F’s “shallow” branding, referred to by the company as ‘Casual Luxury’, was remarkably successful. As The New Yorker commented, it created “an air of exclusivity that, in retrospect, seems preposterous for a company best known for selling rumpled flannels and T-shirts”. Without the logo, the company lacks a unique selling point of any kind.
The problem appears to be their tired and unoriginal product range rather than the presence of the logo itself. In an age when there is more competition than ever for the loyalty of young people (spread across clothing and increasingly electronic brands), A&F simply do not offer an original product.
The company’s success had been based on its clientele being the ‘cool kids’, but this no longer appears to be the case. Competitor stores such as H&M and Zara have eclipsed their rival, in no small part due to a recognition that what is considered ‘cool’ changes from time to time. A surge in the popularity of vintage clothing has left more preppy brands trailing behind. The brand’s continued success in the middle east and Asia reflects the lag in fashion in these regions behind Europe and the US.