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Will Abercrombie's desexualized strategy bring back sales?


Executives at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. think that taking the sex out of its ads will solve the retailer's traffic problems, according to new reports. But the retailer may have more work to do than just firing the beefcake models.

The Columbus Business Journal and the Washington Post report that Abercrombie announced Friday it will no longer use shirtless models inside its stores or in its ads. The move is part of a larger effort to reduce the company's sexualized imagery that at times has come under fire. The company, which includes both Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, said it will stop featuring "sexualized marketing" by July and give employees more freedom in what they wear to work.

But there's more to Abercrombie's troubles than just oversexed ads.

The data show that today's teens are more fickle, more picky and more individualistic than previous generations thanks to the Internet and specifically social media. Trends move a lot faster these days, and fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Forever 21 have moved quickly to keep up with these trends. Abercrombie has been slow to recognize trends.

Abercrombie has also lost its brand identity, suffered mismanagement problems, fired its founding CEO and weathered several rounds of bad press. These things are not easy to recover from.

In the meantime, Abercrombie also announced it will make stores more responsive to the needs of local shoppers by giving individual store managers control of product placement and also giving managers local sales goals and incentives. In-store scent, lighting and music will also be altered to provide a more pleasant sensory experience.

By July, store employees will be called “associates” instead of “models.” The store employees themselves have a less stringent dress code than the previous “look code,” although visible piercings other than earlobes and facial or neck tattoos are still prohibited.

“The brand is moving to a customer-centric store operating model and making it more convenient, friendlier and easier to shop,” the Post reported.

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