Abercrombie & Fitch (New Albany, Ohio) is the focus of media attention this week for not offering women’s larger clothing sizes at its teen-oriented stores.
According to Business Insider, they want the "cool kids," and they don't consider plus-sized women as being a part of that group.
Contrast Abercrombie with H&M (Stockholm, Sweden), another favorite with the teen set, who just introduced a plus-sized model in its latest swimwear collection, reports Business Insider.
H&M has a plus-sized line. American Eagle (Pittsburgh) offers up to size XXL for men and women.
Abercrombie’s largest women's pants are a size 10, while H&M's standard line goes up to a size 16 and American Eagle offers up to 18.
It's not surprising that Abercrombie excludes plus-sized women considering the attitude of ceo Mike Jeffries, says Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail and ceo of newsletter The Robin Report.
"He doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people," Lewis told Business Insider. "He doesn't want his core customers to see people who aren't as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they're one of the 'cool kids.'"
The only reason Abercrombie offers XL and XXL men's sizes is probably to appeal to beefy football players and wrestlers, Lewis said.
In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries himself said that his business was built around sex appeal.
“It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries also told Salon that he wasn't bothered by excluding some customers.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
"He is a brilliant visionary," Lewis said. "He really crystallized this core consumer he was going after."
But Lewis says it's a model that may not fit the future. Plus-sized shoppers now make up 67 percent of consumers.
"I think the young people today want cool, but as they define it themselves," Lewis said.