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GRADING A&F: Abercrombie & Fitch chief executive Michael Jeffries Wednesday took to Facebook to respond to the delayed reaction to his comments in a Salon interview seven years ago, when he described the company as “absolutely” exclusionary and its target market as “the cool kids” in a given school. But market research from YouGov shows that the comments, given recent currency by social media despite their relative antiquity, might have tarnished the brand among its coveted Milllennial demographic.
YouGov fixes a “Buzz score” to a brand based on the balance of positive and negative things consumers have heard about it in the past two weeks, A&F’s rating among 18- to 34-year-olds slipped from 1.9 on April 29 to -3.3 on May 3, the day retail expert Robin Lewis resurrected the comments in an interview with Business Insider.
Since then, with the buzz getting louder, the Buzz score has continued to decline, dipping to -11.3 on May 8 and a low of -17.3 on Tuesday while competitors like American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and H&M have maintained positive ratings. A&F’s Facebook page has been besieged by blistering comments, punctuated Wednesday by Jeffries’ statement, which read in part, “I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion.”
Although too soon to affect its YouGov score, A&F on Wednesday became just the second U.S.-based firm, after PVH Corp., to join the Bangladesh fire and safety accord.