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Abercrombie & Fitch Sales Decline: How Disrespecting Diversity can be Bad for Business

 

Abercrombie  Fitch Fifth Avenue crop 600x475 Abercrombie & Fitch Sales Decline:  How Disrespecting Diversity can be Bad for BusinessAfter managing to alienate significant numbers of Asians, Asian Americans, Muslims, African Americans, Hispanics, overweight, and disabled people, Abercrombie & Fitch has found – surprise – that declining sales forced it into a quarterly loss.  In an attempt to regain some lost sales, the company has slightly retreated on its position of catering only to what the company’s CEO calls the “all American beautiful people” by now including sizes for larger people.

Abercrombie & Fitch is a case study of what happens can happen when a company doesn’t pay proper attention to the diversity of its potential customers.

aftshirt 600x400 Abercrombie & Fitch Sales Decline:  How Disrespecting Diversity can be Bad for BusinessDiversity can apply to many facets of people.  Racial diversity is one aspect.  In 2002, these Abercrombie & Fitch T-Shirts playing on stereotypes managed to infuriate many Asian Americans.  Asians were upset by this model (shown below) brought into South Korea to open up one of their Hollister subsidiary’s stores and who later mocked Koreans over twitter.  Lawsuits have been brought by Hispanics and African Americans who say they weren’t hired or were only to work away from customers because they didn’t have the “right image.”

Abercrombie & Fitch targets 18-24 year olds, but that demographic is increasingly non-white in the US, not to mention already that way in the rest of the world.  Why would they want to alienate a growing segment of potential customers, especially one that has large and increasing buying power?

holistermodel Abercrombie & Fitch Sales Decline:  How Disrespecting Diversity can be Bad for BusinessThere are other kinds of diversity that Abercrombie & Fitch seem to dislike.  The company lost a lawsuit filed by a Muslim woman working at Abercrombie & Fitch who was fired for wearing a hijab.  This wasn’t the first case.  Abercrombie & Fitch and its subsidiaries have also been sued regarding handicap access, forcing a women with a prosthetic arm to work away from customers, and preventing a woman from helping her autistic sister try on clothes in a dressing room.  They have even managed to alienate people who like Taylor Swift.

Abercrombie & Fitch has tried to make steps to address diversity issues, explicitly discussing it on their hiring web site.  I found this Abercrombie and Fitch apologist site to be an amusing attempt to win people to their side. Sales declines has been partially attributed to other factors like higher teen unemployment and changes in teen spending on other items.  Still, these other reasons for sales declines and Abercrombie & Fitch’s other  efforts are overshadowed by their long and ongoing history of negative behavior.  Respecting diversity is more than some notion of political correctness but it directly affects the corporate bottom line.   Gap’s use of Sikh man in an ad and their reaction to a racist defacing of it are a stark contrast.

Not coincidentally, Gap is profitable, and those profits are increasing. To me, it would seem much better to have a larger diversity of customers to than to chase a shrinking demographic of teen “beautiful people” who are notoriously fickle.

In the past, The Wife bought clothes for my sons at Abercrombie & Fitch, but stopped going there after feeling that she was unwelcome there because she wasn’t white.   The Daughter said that at her college, students (even the white ones) don’t wear Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister, as these brands are generally associated with douchiness.  What would it take to get The Wife, The Daughter, and many others back as customers? Including larger sizes, while a good step, is not going to do it.

Some even say it is a step backward as the plus sizes are only available online, suggesting that Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t want large people in their stores.  More drastic measures, such as rethinking their marketing and “Look Policy” in light of changing demographics, are needed.

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Abercrombie & Fitch Sales Decline: How Disrespecting Diversity can be Bad for Business

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Bill Clinton: Violence in Burma sickens world

Bill Clinton, Aung San Suu Kyi

Reports of sectarian violence in Burma sicken the world, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said after speaking to political and civic leaders about challenges faced by the emerging democracy following a half-century of military rule.

The attacks on Muslims are a topic many in this predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million try to avoid. Soon after President Thein Sein formed a quasi-civilian government in early 2011 and began making sweeping political and economic changes, deep-seated prejudices started to surface. In the past year, more than 240 people have been killed and 240,000 others forced to flee their homes.

Most of the victims have been members of the minority Rohingya Muslim community, hunted down by stick- and machete-weilding Buddhist mobs, often as members of the security forces stood by.

And the government — together with much of the population — has been largely silent.

The whole world has been pulling for Burma, even since you opened up,” said Clinton, who was visiting the country for the first time, his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, preceding him by two years.

The whole world cheers every piece of good news and is sick every time they read about sectarian violence,” he said. “Because everywhere on earth, people are tired of people killing each other and fighting each other because of their differences.”

Clinton, who met earlier Thursday with Thein Sein, House Speaker Shwe Mann and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was officially in the main city of Yangon with his nonprofit The Clinton Foundation, which will help the government procure drugs for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, tackle maternal and infant mortality, and improve agricultural development.

But it was clear, in a 40-minute speech before a tightly packed audience at the Burma Peace Center, that sectarian violence was not far from his mind.

He pointed to examples elsewhere across the globe where countries have been ripped apart by ethnic and religious conflict, including some during his own presidency — the Balkans, the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

He spoke too about ways in which former foes managed eventually to put aside their differences and work together.

Burma’s situation may be unique, its history complicated, he said, but “some lessons are applicable to everyone.”

It’s important to always remember, for instance, that no one is right all the time and that complicated problems are best solved by large groups with diverse experience and knowledge, he said.

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Bill Clinton: Violence in Burma sickens world