The Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

It’s hard to believe that Abercrombie & Fitch, the brazen sexed-up teen clothing store was at one time the retailer of choice for great outdoorsman like Theodore Roosevelt, Clark Gable and President Eisenhower.

More recently, however, this heritage outfitters has become known for peddling soft porn to sell cheaply made, overpriced jeans and t-shirts.

For years pro-family organizations like Concerned Women for America, the American Decency Association, American Family Association and even a certain Illinois State Senator have exposed Abercrombie & Fitch’s marketing tactics, calling attention to their quarterly catalog full of nude pictorials of young men and women, their giant store posters featuring half-dressed models, and the infamous push-up bikini tops marketed to girls as young as 7 and 8. These organizations banded together and called for an all-out boycott of the mall retailer.

As a believer in the free market system, I’m not typically a huge fan of emotionally-charged boycotts from the left or the right. However, when businesses launch a full frontal assault on our children (pun intended), I think that the cries for a boycott are appropriate. Being a mother of seven – including two impressionable pre-tween boys – I’ve grown weary of having our family trips to the mall infringed upon by the half-naked greeters standing in the Abercrombie & Fitch’s store front inviting us to check out their “sexy fleece.” Fleece…sexy?

What can be sexy about oversized fuzzy sweatshirts? (but I digress)…

So, despite my more laissez-faire market principles, the protective and common-sense mom in me prevailed. So, I wasn’t terribly disappointed to discover that due to falling profits and underperforming stores, the Ohio-based teen retailer plans to close 180 of its U.S. store fronts by 2015. This comes on the heels of having closed 71 stores in 2012.

It was just a few years ago when Dennis Rainey, Founder and President of Family Life Today took to the airwaves and Christian publications to relate a story of visiting an Abercrombie & Fitch store with his then 13-year-old daughter. After a heated encounter with the sales clerk over the contents of Abercrombie & Fitch’s catalog and the sex-laden wall posters, Rainey made a promise to the manager:

“I just want you to know I’m only one customer. I’m just a daddy of six kids, but I have a lot of friends. And I want you to know that wherever I go, I’m going to use this episode as an illustration of a company that doesn’t care about the future of our young people, their morality, or the future of our nation.”

Rainey stayed true to his promise. For years, he’s been issuing a rallying cry to parents to stand up, speak out and protect our children from indecent, sex-driven advertising. His story has been shared over the radio and across the internet, educating parents who otherwise would never suspect that a mainstream mall retailer was hyping sex to sell apparel. Could it be that the efforts of Dennis Rainey and other pro family organizations are finally paying off?

Bill Johnson, President of Americans for Decency, a pro-family organization that led the crusade against Abercrombie & Fitch seems to think so.

“This was a long hard-fought battle, requiring a decade worth of educating, exposing and informing. Little by little people became aware of Abercrombie & Fitch’s marketing tactics and eventually enough consumers said they had enough.”

While pending store closings made the business news last month, those involved with the decade-long fight to expose Abercrombie & Fitch’s “skin sells” marketing tactics knew this day of reckoning was coming.

“If you look over the past decade, you will notice the parallel between the spread of our campaign and Abercrombie & Fitch’s decrease in sales. The more people learned about what was in their catalogs and how they were marketing their products, the less they wanted to shop there,” Johnson said.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for families to take a stand against retail moguls like Abercrombie & Fitch who seek to manipulate the octane level hormones of our youth just to turn a profit. But as this victory illustrates, our voices when banded together, can make a difference.

With tenacity and patience, parents still have the power to force businesses to make a choice: either reevaluate your marketing practices, or in the case of Abercrombie & Fitch, pay the ultimate price by closing up shop.

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