Remember the days when clothier Abercrombie & Fitch was all about selling its stuff with images of barely clothed, beautiful teen bodies—the sort of sexiness prominently featured on in-store displays in the form of bionic backs, parabolic pectorals and implausible parades of perfect tanned curves? That was a time when a clothing catalogue could shamelessly draw in young consumers with pictorials sporting youths kissing and frolicking in various stages of undress (oh, and a few pictures of possible clothes those teens could be wearing thrown in there, too). Days when six-pack packing dudes would greet you shirtless at the store door and welcome you in.
Well, it looks like those days may be over. At least for the moment.
Abercrombie & Fitch has announced that it is officially doing away with the sex-drenched ads featuring teens and the sleazy dance club vibe that once infuriated parents everywhere. Why? Because today’s teens are not impressed. (Picture a girl with her arms crossed and an “I am smelling something bad and it’s you” look on her face.)
Since the first half of fiscal 2012 the A&F retail numbers have been on the decline and Abercrombie expects to be closing 60 stores this year. The lure of bare tanned flesh just doesn’t seem to be pulling kids into the overpriced jeans market any longer.
While that’s a positive change all on its own, I personally think Abercrombie & Fitch may have more work to do than just change their advertising strategy. For one, the day when teens and college kids everywhere loved showing off exactly where they bought their clothes is done. Logo sporting—another big feature of Abercrombie wares—has passed into the uncool, almost nerdy domain of orange spray tans and tongue piercings. And the old high school cliché of “don’t you want to look like the popular, beautiful kids?” just doesn’t motivate quite like it used to.
Reason number two, I think, is that ever-present wonder called the Internet. A 2011 Pew Internet survey reported that 95% of U.S. young adults between ages 12 through 17 are now online. Four-fifths of those teens have profiles on social media sites. (And let’s face it, since 2011 those figures probably have grown.)
Teenagers have the power now to connect with trends and fads halfway around the world in the time it takes to scan for “favorite” vids on YouTube or Instagram. They’re connected with everyone about everything that’s cool; They don’t need some overpriced store to dictate fashion for them. Besides, the online wares tend to be much cheaper to acquire. Social media, then, becomes a superpower that flummoxes both parents and sales gurus alike.
So what is hot today? What’s the next big thing that’s grabbing teen attentions and wallets? Well, that’s hard to say. In fact, give it a second … there, it’s changed.
Hopefully, whatever it is, it stays fully clothed.