History of Abercrombie & Fitch
Founders of Abercrombie & Fitch
of Abercrombie & Fitch began in the nineteenth century and extends into the
twenty-first century. Key figures who changed and influenced the course of
Abercrombie & Fitch's history include co-founders David T. Abercrombie and
Ezra Fitch, Limited Brands and Michael Jeffries, the former Chairman and CEO.
Abercrombie founded A&F in 1892 as an upscale sporting goods store. Forming
a partnership with Ezra Fitch, the company continued to expand in the new 20th
century. After Abercrombie left the company, Fitch became sole owner and
ushered in the "Fitch Years" of continued success. Shortly after his
retirement, the company continued to develop under a succession of other
leaders until its financial fall and closing in 1977. Limited Brands purchased
the ailing brand in 1988 and brought in Mike Jeffries, who revolutionized the
image of Abercrombie & Fitch to become an upscale youthful fashion
was originally established as Abercrombie Co. by David Abercrombie on June 4,
1892, in a small waterfront shop at 36 South Street in downtown Manhattan, New
York. Wealthy New York businessman Ezra Fitch became one of the store's regular
customers. In 1900, Fitch bought a major share in the growing Abercrombie
Company and thus joined as co-founder. Aberr 2010}}
partnership between Abercrombie and Fitch did not end happily. The two men,
with different visions for the future of A&F, quarreled frequently,
although the company continued to prosper. Fitch wished to expand the company's
appeal to the general public, while Abercrombie wanted to continue selling
professional gear to professional outdoorsmen. As a result of the disagreement,
Abercrombie sold his share in the company to Fitch in 1907 and returned to
manufacturing outdoor goods. Fitch continued the business with other partners
and directed the company as he pleased.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. mailed over 50,000 copies of its 456-page catalog
worldwide (a staggering and costly amount of publication at that time, since
each cost a dollar to produce). The catalog featured outdoor clothing,
camping gear, articles, and advice columns. The cost of the catalog nearly
bankrupted the company, but the catalog proved to be a profitable marketing
device. Within the store, the catalog was available to customers for free. By
1910, the company began selling women's clothing, and became the first store in
New York to supply clothing to women as well as men. In 1913,
after moving into Reade Street, which was not a convenient shopping location
for women, the store relocated to a more fashionable and easily accessible
midtown address near Fifth Avenue at 55/57 West 36th Street, expanding its
inventory to include sportswear. In 1917, the store moved again into a
twelve-story building at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. The
store occupied the entire available space (12 stories).
Avenue store included many different amenities. The basement housed a shooting
range while on the mezzanine (main floor) paraphernalia for skiing, archery,
free diving, and lawn games were sold. The second through fifth floors were
reserved for clothing that was suitable for different climate or terrains. On
the sixth floor were a picture gallery, a bookstore (focused on sporting
themes), a watch repair facility and a golf school (fully equipped with a resident
professional). The seventh floor included a gun room with hundreds of shotguns
and rifles, decorated with stuffed game heads, as well as a kennel for dogs and
cats . The eighth floor contained fishing, camping, and boating equipment
and included a desk for a fly- and bait-casting instructor who gave lessons at
the pool, which was located on the roof. The fishing section alone was stocked
with over 48,000 flies and over 18,000 fishing lures.
& Fitch Co. became the first American store to import Mahjong. Ezra
Fitch imported the game after a female customer looked for the game that she
had played in China. He went to China for the game and translated the
instructions into English. Mahjong became a fast selling product, and Abercrombie
& Fitch became the epicenter of the Mahjong craze. The company sent
emissaries to Chinese villages to buy as many Mahjong sets as possible and
eventually sold over 12,000 sets.
Abercrombie & Fitch outfitted Charles Lindbergh for his historic flight
across the Atlantic Ocean. It also attracted the business of other prominent
Fitch retired from the company and sold to his brother-in-law, James S. Cobb.
Under Cobb, A&F acquired Von Lengerke & Detmold, a well-respected New
York dealer of fine European-made sporting guns and fishing tackle, as well as
that company's Chicago branch, Von Lengerke & Antoine. Cobb also acquired
Griffin & Howe, another gunsmith company. Merchandise from both Von Lengerke
& Detmold and Griffin & Howe was carried at A&F's Madison Avenue
store. By this time, A&F was also selling equipment for polo, golf, and
tennis. By 1929, sales of US $6.3 million were reported with net profits of US
Great Depression, the company's revenue decreased and it stopped paying
dividends. Sales plunged to $2,598,925 in 1933. A&F recovered in the
following years and resumed paying dividends in 1938. During that year, guns
accounted for 40% of sales at the Madison Avenue store. Clothing, shoes, and
furnishings accounted for 45%, while inventory was valued at about 40% of
annual sales (reflecting A&F's readiness to meet customer demands). Ten
percent of the business was attributed to mail orders from the catalog. Abercrombie
& Fitch Co. continued to expand. As early as 1913, A&F had adopted the
slogan, "The Greatest Sporting Goods Store in the World".
record net profit was $682,894 in 1947. The company opened a large branch in
San Francisco in 1958. It soon added small winter-only shops open from November
through May each season in Palm Beach and Sarasota, Florida, and summer-only
shops in Bay Head, New Jersey, and Southampton, New York. to complement a shop
in Hyannis, Massachusetts, it had operated since the end of World War II.
Guernsey succeeded Cobb as president. He remarked, "The Abercrombie
& Fitch type does not care about the cost; he wants the finest
quality."With so many locations now under the control of Abercrombie &
Fitch, the Madison Avenue store remained the flagship store. In the 1950s,
the main floor of the flagship was remodeled to include heads of buffalo,
caribou, moose, elk, and other big game, stuffed fish of spectacular size, and
net sales rose to $16.5 million, but net profit fell for the fourth straight
year to $185,649. By 1961, net sales dropped to $15.5 million, and net
profit to $124,097. Guernsey's successor as president, John H. Ewing, paid
little attention to the decline in sales. In 1961, he told an interviewer of
Business Week that Abercrombie & Fitch enjoyed a special niche "by
sticking to our knitting; by not trying to be all things to all people."
A&F would open a year-round resort shop at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado
Springs (1962) and its first suburban store at the Mall in Short Hills, New
Jersey (1963). Under the leadership of Earle K. Angstadt, Jr., Abercrombie's
continued to expand in upscale locations such as the Bal Harbour Shops near
Miami Beach, Florida (1966), the Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan, outside
Detroit (1969) and in boutique-style shops in other department stores.
Abercrombie and Fitch achieved a notable early example of the "brand
integration" form of product placement by providing the venue for part of
the Rock Hudson / Paula Prentiss romantic comedy film Man's Favorite Sport?.
and Fitch held a warehouse sale in 1968 and early 1970 and presented offbeat
newspaper advertisements that reflected a measure of desperation. The company's
revenue continued decline, with a loss of about $500,000 in its previous fiscal
year. Noticing the effect that the ads and sale-days had upon the Abercrombie
& Fitch customer base, the next president William Humphreys, a former Lord
& Taylor executive, halted the measures. He focused on improving A&F's
inventory control and credit practices and cutting the company's expenses.;
changed the store design to present a different image, focused on expansion
into the suburbs in 1972 with a location in Oak Brook, Illinois, 1972 in hopes
of recapturing customers who no longer patronized its store in downtown
Chicago's Loop. Noticing that the offbeat advertisements were bringing in
customers that management considered "not of classic Abercrombie &
Fitch material," A&F ceased its mis-directing ads and sale-days in
October 1970. Presentation within the flagship changed as well to provide a
newer look. Expensive sailboats were moved from the main floor to an upper floor,
a discount clothing section was introduced on the tenth floor, sportswear lines
were expanded, and new buyers for woman's apparel were hired. However, the
changes did not improve sales and the company continued to decline financially
under Humphreys and his successor Hal Haskell, who was a major stockholder of
the company. After losing $1 million in 1975, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. filed
for chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 1976 and finally closed its doors in
sporting goods retailer, acquired Abercrombie & Fitch Co. in 1978 for $1.5
million ($5.2 million in 2013 dollars). It opened an Abercrombie & Fitch
store in 1979 in Beverly Hills, California, and another in Dallas, Texas, which
was bigger and sported $40,000 USD elephant guns and an "Abercrombie
Runabout sports convertible" worth $20,775 USD.Stores continued to open in
South Street Seaport and Trump Tower and catered towards contemporary interests
of golf, exercise, and tennis. Clothing collections for men and women carried
business and casual dress, and sportswear. Forbes described the merchandise as
"a hodgepodge of unrelated items" and that "sometimes it is
better to bury the dead than to try reviving them." Abercrombie &
Fitch continued to struggle as Oshman's struggled itself to develop a strong
identity for the company.
through 1999: rebranding into fashion retail
Limited Brands acquired the ailing company for $47 million after having success
in popularizing Express and Victoria's Secret. Headquarters was moved to
Columbus, Ohio, and all inventory was cleared out. The new president of
Abercrombie & Fitch, Sally Frame-Kasaks, placed a strong emphasis on
apparel. Michael S. Jeffries, a clothing executive, took over as president in
1992. He popularized the brand to a teen apparel merchandiser from an ailing
sports brand. He believed that focusing the A&F brand towards the American
teen market would be financially beneficial as that sector of retail economy
was said to be growing at a record rate at the time.
Abercrombie & Fitch reopened shortly afterwards with a preppy outdoors
theme reminiscent of the company's original roots. Jeffries desired to have
Bruce Weber, known for his sexual beefcake photography, as the photographer for
the brand, but could not do so until the company gained financial success. The
apparel consisted of woven shirts, denim, miniskirts, cargo shorts, wool
sweaters, polo shirts, and t-shirts. Its prices were unprecedentedly high in
the teen apparel industry. Sales rose $85 million in 1992, $111 million in
1993, and to $165 million in 1994. 49 stores were opened by 1994, and a 102
store count was aimed by the end of 1995.In 1994, new records for merchandise
margin rate and profitability were established by Abercrombie & Fitch for
its parent, The Limited. To maintain popularity and to keep up with teen
trends, Jeffries hired executives to keep up on popular teenage clothing,
music, and entertainment.
mid-1990s, there were dozens of Abercrombie & Fitch stores in the United
States. On September 26, 1996, The Limited, Inc. took Abercrombie &
Fitch public on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol
"ANF" and with the per share offering as $16. In late 1990s, the
company began to opt building stores only averaging between 8,000 and 20,000
square feet (700 to 2,000 m²) in high-volume retail centers around the country.
It also launched the canoe store prototype of white facade and interior gray
walls to accommodate the growth of its brand.
Abercrombie & Fitch launched A&F Quarterly. The publication included
photography, interviews and articles about sex, pop culture, and other teen
interests. In 1998, the company introduced its first subsidiary, abercrombie.
The concept was designed as the Abercrombie & Fitch for a younger clientele
between the ages on 7-14. In 1999 began a 3-year-long class action lawsuit in
which Abercrombie & Fitch was one of several American retailers involved
for its sweatshops in Saipan. Revenue recorded for Abercrombie & Fitch at
the end of fiscal 1998 was at $805.2 million USD. By 1998, Abercrombie &
Fitch became an independent company, and Mike Jeffries assumed the position of
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. As the brand regained its prominence,
industry analysts began to speculate how long Abercrombie and Fitch would be
able to retain its popularity.
predicted that A&F would fall from popularity, but sales continued
escalating after a provocative Christmas 1999 in which the A&F Quarterly
issue of the season featured sexually explicit content that drew angry
complaints. In 1999, the A&F also launched "A&F TV", which
featured young people engaged in sports and leisure activities. A&F TV was
originally developed to run on cable television and on monitors in Abercrombie
& Fitch stores. It was soon removed. Revenue for fiscal 1999 was at
Increase $1.030 billion USD.
approach of Abercrombie & Fitch, by the end of the decade, to its customers
seemed to please male shoppers more than females, who shopped more frequently
at competitor shops. Throughout the 1990s, Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
enjoyed sales of over Increase$400/ft2 (Increase$4300/m2). By December 1999,
Abercrombie & Fitch operated a total of 212 stores nationwide.
into the 21st century, Abercrombie & Fitch was rated as the sixth most
popular brand before Nintendo and Levi's by teenagers. The company introduced
its third brand, Hollister Co., in July 2000. The third concept was based on
Southern California surf lifestyle, and was targeted towards high school
students. After Hollister lowered the revenue of Abercrombie & Fitch, the
company launched the Ezra Fitch collection, and began producing A&F
clothing with higher grade materials, increasing the prices. In 2001, the
company moved into a new 300-acre (1.2 km2) home office in New Albany, Ohio.
Headquarters were further expanded by 2003. Also in 2003, the company
released its last issue of A&F Quarterly after amounting complaints.
trademark slogan, Casual Luxury.
successfully launching Hollister, the company introduced its fourth brand RUEHL
No.925 for older consumers, 22 through 35, on September 24, 2004. Revenue
continued to escalate as sales are reported at $2.021 billion for 2004. In
November 2005, the company opened doors to its first ever flagship store
(located in Fifth Avenue). By this time, the company begins to uplift its image
to near-luxury status after introducing the trademark Casual Luxury for
promotion. Revenue reported for 2005 was $2.021 billion.
& Fitch began its Canadian expansion in January 2006 when the company
opened two A&F stores and three Hollister Co. stores in Toronto and
Edmonton. By fall 2006, a third Canadian Abercrombie & Fitch store opened
in the Toronto Eaton Centre. Also in the year, the brand opened a west coast
flagship in The Grove. Revenue reported for 2006 is $3.318 billion, an increase
of over $1.297 billion from 2005.
2007, the canoe stores were revamped with dark louvers (see right image). On 22
March 2007, Abercrombie & Fitch opened its first European flagship in
London at 7 Burlington Gardens in Savile Row. The store
generated a volume of $280,000 (around £140,000 GBP) in its first 6 hours of
operation. The flagship remains one of the most profitable A&F locations.
Revenue reached record heights in 2007 with an overall sales of $3.749 billion.
January 2008, Abercrombie & Fitch introduced its fifth concept, the
intimate apparel brand Gilly Hicks. Inspired by "Down Under", it is
officially labeled as the "Cheeky cousin of Abercrombie & Fitch."
In April 2008, A&F relaunched A&F Quarterly for release in the UK
flagship On August 31, 2008, the "bright and insightful" company
director Allan A. Tuttle died. By December 22, corporate announced that it had
produced a new employment agreement with Mike Jeffries set to expire in 2014.
For the first time in its recent history, A&F suffered a financial decrease
to $3.540 billion revenue for fiscal 2008. The blame was to the current
economic recession, and also to the fact that the company refused to lower
price points and offer sales citing brand image-protection that doing so would
"cheapen" its near-luxury image.
late-2000s recession continued, A&F noticeably suffered financially for its
refusal to lower prices or offer discounts. Early in January 2009, the company
reported its worst drop in sales and shares. By the end of the month, 50
employees lost their jobs and many positions were still unoccupied. 170 more
employees were dismissed in May. A&F announced on 17 June 2009 the closure
of its ailing Ruehl No.925 brand by January 2010. By October, A&F launched
its official Facebook page. Despite financial downturns, A&F opened its
second European location, a flagship store, in Milan on October 29. On its
official Facebook page, A&F called it the biggest consumer reception for a
flagship opening in A&F history: "like nothing the world has seen
before". On December 15, another flagship store opened in Tokyo, Japan.
Marking the first ever A&F location in Asia, the opening became the biggest
retail event in history, was noted as a "spectacle of consumerism" by
the Japanese, and made around JP¥50 million (US$550,000) that day alone.
2010, A&F launched its A&F Cares feature highlighting its philanthropic
efforts. Keeping to its commitment, the company shut down ruehl.com on January
22, and closed doors to all final Ruehl stores by the end of the month.
Analysts began noting encouraging signs of financial progress, in March, for
the company, citing A&F's successful international expansion and better
inventory management. Also around that time, a historical fishing line dryer,
made by A&F in the early 1900s, was sold to an A&F model for $590
USD. As a marketing move, A&F announced the relaunch of the A&F
Quarterly on 17 July 2010 as a part of its "Screen Test"
Back-to-School marketing campaign designed to attract more consumer attention
and sales. In August, CEO Mike Jeffries announced that Abercrombie &
Fitch would close roughly 60 stores in 2010. Later that month, CFO Jonathan
Ramsden said another 50 stores could close in 2011. Profits began to pick up by
September 2010 to larger than predicted results (attributed to the result of
the major "Screen Test" campaign and numerous sales held throughout
the season). By October, the company was stated as being well ahead its
competitors (a first since the economic turndown). The brand opened a
flagship in Copenhagen and Fukuoka in November 2010, and another one in Paris
by May 2011.
15, 2012, A&F announced plans to close 180 more underperforming U.S. stores
by 2015 while continuing to expand in Europe and Asia.
the company's trendy, upscale image took a hit when comments made by Jeffries
in 2006 that disparaged customers with body types that do not resemble
Abercrombie & Fitch models resurfaced. The resulting backlash launched a
viral internet campaign called "Fitch the Homeless", which aimed to
subvert and mock the company's carefully manicured image of "exclusionary"
style by distributing used Abercrombie & Fitch clothes to homeless and