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Abercrombie’s earnings soar as store expands inclusive styles

Fierce for the summer.

The old days of Abercrombie & Fitch’s mall-based existence almost seem like a fever dream.

Over one hundred years in the making and steering through no shortage of controversies — the ‘preppy cool’ American fashion retailer has pervaded, now coming out on top of the trends and Wall Street’s predictions with a 22% jump in sales from last year.

Shares are up as much as 19% following the better-than-expected first quarter, and the brand expects fiscal 2024 net sales to rise by an additional 10%. The numbers are looking up, and Abercrombie is riding this wave of welcome attention with no woes. But, we all can’t help but wonder, how did they do it?

For the last few years, the popular clothing store has pushed out new collections to attract more customers, specifically millennials and the younger Gen Z shoppers who’ve always had a deep admiration for nostalgic 90s styles — trademarked tanks, baggy jeans, and graphic tees, to name a few.

Sharply rejecting its previous few-size-fits-all approach, the store has also expanded its sizing with Curve Love designs and diversified its catalog with more gender-neutral options, a line of elevated activewear, and a new celebratory Pride collection just in time for Pride month.

But, the company’s recent financial success can’t be understood without acknowledging its troubling past and confident future-forward transformation.

After announcing the highest first-quarter net sales in company history, A&F CEO Fran Horowitz joined Sara Eisen and Carl Quintanilla on CNBC’s Money Movers to talk about delivering these results. Abercrombie & Fitch

The original Abercrombie & Fitch opened in New York City in 1892 as a high-end destination for sporting goods. But, after struggling to keep up its lavish image in the latter half of the 20th century, the company sold to The Limited, which also owns Victoria’s Secret.

Mike Jeffries took over as CEO, relaunching A&F as a Hollister Co. subsidiary, focusing on casual California styles serving a teenage consumer base. The brand quickly expanded across American malls, alluring shoppers’ with black double doors guarded by shirtless male models, dim-lit rooms drenched in hues of musky sandalwood, walls decorated with vintage posters, and standoffish, good-looking employees.

Anyone who grew up in the early 2000s probably remembers this version of Abercrombie. Shopping there was not your ordinary retail experience — it was a symbol of preppy power, effortlessly sexy appeal, and All-American hysteria.

It was easy to forget their primary target demographic was eighth graders. Despite its popularity, the brand found itself in many legal battles.

According to the documentary “White Hot,” Abercrombie referenced a handbook that required employees to wear specific clothing down to their underwear and prohibited dreadlocks and chains, instead mandating a “natural” and “American” look.

In 2003, a class-action lawsuit alleged that the company discriminated against people of color and women who were not given preferential floor sales positions. Abercrombie settled the suit, but another frenzy ensued after past comments made by the CEO were revealed.

“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that. … In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Mike Jeffries (2006 interview with Salon)

After the contentious comments came out, Jeffries issued a Facebook apology, admitting that he regretted his word choice, suggesting the piece was taken out of context. The apology was not well received by many media outlets, and the CEO ultimately stepped down in 2014 after a string of other scandals — including allegations that he lured young men to events for sex.

Abercrombie has taken itself from most-hated to cool again with a wider, more inclusive product assortment — and it’s not just for teenagers.

An Abercrombie & Fitch store interior from 2013. Shutterstock

Today’s A&F looks a bit different. Gone are the chiseled abs and cheeky smiles, at least exclusively.

There are still some tight-fitting tees and low-rise jeans, but you’re more likely to find an assortment of contemporary work clothing, mature mix-and-match pieces, and on-trend styles that are geared not just to college-aged kids but also to working millennials.

Think Artizia or Madewell, without the steep price tags. The clothing is still cool, but Euphoria meets Outer Banks Cool, not Mean Girls or Gossip Girl Cool.

Much of the course correction can be attributed to the company’s new CEO, Fran Horowitz. Horowitz has steered Abercrombie towards more social causes, highlighted by an expansive 2024 Pride collection and an ongoing partnership with The Trevor Project, which is the leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQIA+ youth.

A&F will donate $400,000 to The Trevor Project this year, regardless of sales.

A selection from the Abercrombie & Fitch 2024 Pride Collection. Abercrombie & Fitch

“We successfully navigated seasonal transitions with relevant assortments and compelling marketing, leveraging agile chase capabilities and inventory discipline, driving sales above our expectations,” Horowitz said in a news release.“Growth was broad-based across regions and brands, with Abercrombie brands registering 31% growth and Hollister brands delivering growth of 12%.”

Beyond giving brick-and-mortar storefronts a bright and more welcoming makeover and expanding product assortment, the brand has also relied heavily on digital marketing, influencers, and affiliates to help communicate the transformation. Somewhat ironically, the brand has returned to its roots — using clothing to send a message about identity — though now offering clothing that reflects the more diverse individuality of its consumers.

Read on to shop some best-selling styles that have launched Abercrombie & Fitch back into the center of the retail arena.

Abercrombie & Fitch

If A&F’s camo hoodie still hasn’t graced your TikTok page, consider yourself late to the game. These casual, oversized hoodies have been a huge hit with shoppers. They have all the right details, from the classic front pouch pocket to the banded hem and cuffs. Not a fan of camo? Choose from 25 other colors.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie’s Curve Love section is unmatched. Reviewers say this denim is ultra-flattering, comfortable, and still has that desirable authentic look. Styles are available in sizes 23 to 27 and five lengths, so you can find your perfect fit.

Abercrombie & Fitch

The brand has never had a problem with staying ahead of cultural trends and poking fun at pop culture. This darling “On Wednesdays, we wear pink” shirt from the Pride collection is selling out fast, and we can understand why.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie has launched a wedding shop too and the selection of wedding guest dresses, bridal accessories, plus bachelorette party minis is hard to pass on. This gorgeous floral maxi is giving serious beach wedding vibes — but you can easily wear it all summer long.

Kick summer into full gear with a brand-new graphic tee inspired by your favorite sports team. A&F has them all — from the Eagles to the Vikings, Titans, Raiders, Cowboys, Falcons, Panthers, and more. The relaxed fit styles perfectly with a pair of jeans.

Reminiscing about the old Abercrombie? Even if you’re not — this smell never gets old. The classic aromatic blend sparks nostalgia with notes of musk, citrus, and lavender to create an unforgettable scent worthy of attention.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie has always understood how to do denim and is now offering a selection of Mom Shorts and Dad Shorts in addition to these best-selling High Rise Loose Shorts. Shoppers say these cut-offs are just the right length for active days, and the raw hem creates a casual vibe for endless styling options.

Abercrombie & Fitch

White dresses, white dresses, white dresses. We’re all trying to get our hands on one this summer, and this stunning ruched option from A&F is a top contender. The jersey drape fabric, off-the-shoulder detail, and asymmetrical twist neckline give this slim-fitting bodice some added charm.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie’s activewear is fit for summer. The top-rated crossbody bag evokes 90s style without sacrificing functionality. You’ll find zipper pockets and a wide adjustable strap for easy access to store your essentials.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Fleece shorts (also known as dad shorts) are on the rise, and this pair is quietly creeping above the knee with no regrets. The super soft AF fleece fabric is a favorite among customers, and the elastic waistband and metal drawcords make these shorts an easy must-have for summer.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Linen pants and shorts are another hot seller at A&F, and these tailored high-rises have just the right amount of cotton blended in for added comfort and breathability. They are easy to dress up or down and feature deep pockets for work-friendly wear.

Abercrombie & Fitch

While the brand has remained pretty loyal to its umbrella of uncomplicated, easy-to-wear styles, newer looks are also taking more risks — like these chunky, high-platform straw sandals that do particularly well with the younger twenty-somethings.

Hunting for a headline-worthy haul? Keep shopping with Post Wanted.

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