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12/22/2021

CSA Exclusive: Spotlight on Abercrombie & Fitch’s new chief digital, tech officer

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Samir Desai
Samir Desai, chief digital and technology officer, Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch’s new head of technology is excited for 2022.

“It’s a super-exciting time to join Abercrombie & Fitch,” Samir Desai, chief digital and technology officer of Abercrombie & Fitch, said during a conversation with Chain Store Age. “We’re poised for tremendous growth and are in an acceleration phase.”

Desai took the newly-created chief digital and technology officer role at the specialty apparel retailer in July 2021. He came to Abercrombie after spending 15 successful years as a high-ranking executive at Equinox, the New York-based owner and operator of several premier fitness and lifestyle brands.

One of the first steps Desai has taken since coming aboard at Abercrombie is bringing different functions from other areas of the company into the technology group.

“We brought product and user experience out of marketing,” he said. “We brought data and analytics out of finance. It’s all to support our building and growing a customer-facing digital experience.”

Desai acknowledges that shifting Abercrombie’s operating model so the business can become digitally focused will take time.

“We continue to lean into being more of a digitally-first and led omnichannel retailer,” said Desai. “Abercrombie has to change how we operate. I need to serve as a technology leader and change agent.”

Supply chain challenges and same-day delivery
Desai sees challenges and opportunities across the organization, such as helping areas of the company such as merchandising adopt digital technology. He is also focusing on applying advanced data and analytics to the widespread disruptions currently affecting the global supply chain.

“We examine Google Trends data to determine what customers are interested in and searching for in specific areas,” explained Desai. “This allows us to segment inventory by geography. A customer in Austin, Texas has different product preferences than a customer in Washington state.”

Desai said Abercrombie is also using Google Trends data to help shape customer demand, by locally promoting products which have been allocated to specific regions. Having the right inventory available at a store-level basis is also crucial to supporting the retailer’s recently launched same-day delivery program, which is available at more than 540 Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie Kids, Hollister, and Gilly Hicks locations.

[Read More: Abercrombie continues digital shift with same-day delivery]

“In the early stages of offering same-day delivery, we’re learning a lot about our stores,” commented Desai. “Meeting holiday demand ties into store inventory levels. When a customer can find the right product, it shows we are a quality retailer.”

2022 – Web 3.0, mobile AR, resale
Desai also discussed how he sees Abercrombie’s continuing digital transformation evolving in 2022 and beyond. He said the retailer will actively become more involved in Web 3.0 technologies, such as metaverse, cryptocurrency, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

[Read more: Editor’s commentary: What could the ‘Metaverse’ mean for retail?]

“The Web 3.0 space is really nascent, but gaining momentum,” said Desai. “The metaverse is really interesting, the question is how does Abercrombie show up there? We serve customers from ages five to six through millennials. They occupy the space in different ways.”

Mobile technology is also an area where Abercrombie is planning to innovate.

“With augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality, you can address the virtual size and fit challenge,” said Desai. “Online in 2D, it’s hard to get a good sense of how you might look in a particular shirt, dress or pair of jeans. We want to lean into our app and provide an AR-based app experience where you can get a 3D or 4D view of the product, in context of where you might be.”

2022 will also see Abercrombie increase its focus on sustainability by increasing it activity in the circular economy.

“We are gaining traction in our resale partnership with ThredUp,” said Desai. “We are going to continue to invest in resale and help customers get products they have purchased back into the cycle.”

[Read more: Abercrombie & Fitch enters resale market]