A&F Needs to Clean Up Its Act
The storm surrounding the teen-apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) was kicked up a notch after 60 Minutes last month reported that the merchant is being accused of racial discrimination in its hiring practices of retail sales clerks, preferring whites over ethnic minorities.
A&F officials refused to be interviewed on camera for the 60 Minutes spot, saying they couldn’t comment on the alleged discrimination since they’re currently in litigation. Of course, over the years other companies being sued have appeared on 60 Minutes, lawyers in tow. But I guess A&F wanted to — uncharacteristically — play it safe this one time.
For those who need a recap, this is the same company that’s come under attack by parents’ groups and other advocates who decry the company’s depiction of naked teens and sexually explicit content in its quarterly magalog. Just last month, A&F finally capitulated; they recalled from stores the latest edition of the magalog and announced they would stop publishing it.
A&F also has been chastised in the last couple of years for practices such as selling children’s thong underwear imprinted with the words “wink, wink.” Its last magalog, which I admit I haven’t seen, reportedly offered advice on engaging in orgies and oral sex. The magalog’s sex columnist even wrote that readers should be willing to “go down” on a date at the movies, “so long as you don’t disturb those around you.”
To be fair, A&F says its now-defunct magalog was meant for the over-18 crowd, but the uproar from parents’ groups over these issues convinces me that kids younger than 18 were seeing this book. A&F says it soon will unveil a new “innovative and exciting” campaign. I hope it also will be a thoughtful one.
A&F’s same-store sales have been decreasing for the last couple of years, which may explain the company’s recent attention-grabbing stunts. I understand the concept of trying to rise above a competitive din, especially in the crowded teen-apparel market. But using soft-porn and alleged discriminatory hiring practices among sales clerks to do it? Frankly, that steps over the line.