Abercrombie & Fitch kicked off its rebranding efforts on Monday inaugurating its first new concept store in more than 15 years.
It is located at the Polaris Fashion Mall in Columbus, Ohio and the 4,860-ft “boutique” installation is the first of 7 that will be built this year as an attempt to introduce the public to the new direction the brand is taking. “It is important that our stores reflect what the Abercrombie & Fitch brand is today, so we’ve created a new space for our customers, that is warm, inviting, inclusive and open” said the company in a statement from newly minted CEO- Fran Horowitz, who was scooped from subsidiary Hollister where she is credited for engineering the teen retailer’s turnaround. She will also join the board of directors, and promoted Joanne Crevoiserat, executive vice president and chief financial officer, to chief operating officer adding more diversity, something that was clearly lacking due to its past problems with discriminatory lawsuits. Interim chief Arthur Martinez will remain on as executive chairman describing Mrs. Horowitz as “a talented, creative and dedicated executive who has energized our team around important cultural values, a customer-centric mindset and a commitment to assuring our company’s success.”
A&F was in real need of a turnaround, last November reporting a worrisome 15th straight decline in quarterly sales. And just weeks ago was talking about store closing amid a large layoff of 150 of its 2,200 workers at its New Albany headquarters.
But the moose company it is really taking the rebranding seriously, with the new store using innovative techniques like incorporating omni-channel capabilities (to collaborate with its online store) and multiple check out centers called “cash wraps” to avoid long check-out lines, something every customer hates. There is also the inclusion of two shop-in-shops, something modern consumers seem to love, with A&F betting on a fragrance “apothecary” and an area for seasonal capsule collections. There will also be a dedicated denim room, focusing the repositioning of the Abercrombie & Fitch brand back to its roots as an all-American brand that “reflects that confidence and independence of spirit as well as our own dedication to a more diverse and inclusive culture,” the company said last October. There is also an upscale element to its change with less logo-centric clothing and interiors that feature cork, bronze, galvanized steel, concrete, vegan leather, wood and marble. “The new Abercrombie and Fitch store design illustrates a strong brand, with a rich history that is evolving and moving forward. A cohesive material palette, an elevated collection and residential scale elements enhance the personal, more intimate aspect of the A&F shopping experience,” said MJ Sagan, Architect.
A serious commitment to changing its social image has been doing well, with its successful anti-bullying campaign now partnered with a proposed 20% donation of all opening weekend sales to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It also has incorporated a shared fitting room, in an attempt to keep a fun atmosphere while shopping, with “larger, capsule-like fitting rooms enable shoppers to share looks with a friend or family member while still maintaining their privacy”. So the new concept of an A&F store stakes a balance between tradition and modernity with a sleek transparent storefront offset presenting a large metal sculpture of an A&F logo, first used in the early 1900s.