How I know that Abercrombie doesn’t want my business…


My customer profile: thirty-something who reserves a significant portion of disposable income for unneeded fashion and refuses to dress her age (a girl’s got to have some fun).


Dislikes: anything seriously “preppy”, mom jeans, the color teal, sensible shoes, shoulder pads, button- down collars, ironing


Likes: anything 80s inspired but not officially retro, signature pieces to match with classics (like a silver belt, Chuck Taylors, my new yellow bag), lots of thin layers


I know, you can’t tell any of this by looking at the picture on my blog…seriously, don’t look directly at it. I was having a bad hair month and dressed in what I “should” wear, not what I wanted to wear. I’m over that now. I’m about to change it anyway.


So here is my point: I can’t imagine who, aside from fabulously wealthy people, would spend more money on clothes than someone like me (at least as far as mainstream retailers go). I started taking the tags off of clothes when I first bought them so I don’t have to go through the introspection involved with discovering a still-tagged item that I don’t remember purchasing. Clothing retailers should be bending over backward for my customer profile, don’t you think? You know, the kind of person that needs to drop bags off at the car to continue shopping?


So why, why, why do some retailers like Abercrombie play horrible music that makes our ears bleed? Evidently, that is part of the young shopping experience and while I think the whippersnappers can do without it, I can’t tolerate it. I’m perfectly happy to live out my Peter Pan fashion persona by spending lots of money in their store. Just…can’t…do…it. Ears are ringing just thinking about it.


Juxtapose that with The Gap, which just re-opened their store here in Bellevue Square. Really cute and fun clothes (enough for me to still feel like I am fooling the clock without making a total mockery of myself) that appeal to multiple age groups. My friend Suzanne and I had an extra special treat thanks to our new Gap buddy Derek B. who invited us to their re-opening event (my wallet is panting). Anyway, if you haven’t checked out the Gap recently, you should (especially if you live here). I used to find their clothes too preppy, but now it seems they have added a little rock and that suits me well. Less “buttoned up”, more “waiting to be discovered”. And the lighting didn’t make it perfectly obvious that I needed to maybe check out some eye cream on my way out of the mall.


Now, if someone tells me that Abercrombie intentionally plays that music to keep people like me out, I am going to be upset. Keep in mind that I could have a teenage kid so there would be a perfectly legitimate reason for  me to be in there, if you don’t consider dressing age inappropriately a reasonable hobby.  

Comments (35)

  1. Haven’t been to either store in a while, since The Gap left Germany a few years ago and we never had Abercrombie here (shopped at both when I still lived in VA though).

    Doesn’t Abercrombie target a younger age group than Gap? I mean as in mid-teens (probably confusing it with another place)? I remember finding the music there annoying two years ago and I was 26 then, which means it was plain bad since I’m a total snob when it comes to music.

    The Gap, by contrast, is sorely missed here in Germany (at least by me). The closest thing we have is Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) which is on virtually every corner across Europe. They also have a slightly younger audience in mind and their stuff tends to be low-quality wear-once-then-toss.

    I’ve recently discovered American Apparel and I plan to spend a lot of money there. They have two stores in Germany so a certain novelty is part of the appeal, I guess (I know, I know… shoot me). I really like their style though – simple, no logos, a handful of colors. Cool.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Cornelius…see, I told you I dress age inappropriately! You have the right store. Working from home quite a bit, I shop where they have good sweats. Now, I am jealous that you have H&M. When I go to New York, that is the one place I absolutely must go every time. I buy trendy stuff there so I don’t feel bad about the money I spent when it goes out of style. I’ve seen American Apparel stores but have never gone in. I like the idea but they had a Dateline show in the guy that runs the company and he creeps me out. I still can’t bring myself to go in there.

    I also like Victoria’s Secret catalog for the cheapy stuff…mostly loungewear…yeah, that’s what I am going to call the good sweats…loungewear. One of the few clothing retailers where I feel comfortable enough with their sizing to buy online. The stuff in the catalog is different than the stuff in the store…more outerwear.

    I really need to watch my shopping. Yikes!

  3. tod hilton says:

    Just to show my lack of fashion sense, I prefer button-down collars.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    tod- I don’t think they are out of style (I don’t know…maybe they are…the button part). I just find collars uncomfortable. When you have long, curly hair (which you don’t, of course) and an open collar, your hair gets stuck in your collar and goes down your back and I always feel self-conscious about buttoning it up too high or too low. I do have a couple collared shirts but only wear them under certain circumstances (like with my one suit that doens’t fit me anymore : )

    Men’s fashion doens’t change that much from one year to the next, at least compared to womens’, in my opinion.

  5. Pat says:

    HH,  I can’t agree more.  I have turned a retail age corner.  Working in RTC we often have to walk by Abercrombie, we have two contests.  The first is, as we walk, who can hear the music first, the second is who can smell the perfume first.  That store is absolute hell on earth for me.  It is just so loud, and the scents of cologne and perfume are absolutely overwhelming.  They want a demographic in there that isn’t ‘us’ :-).  If you can make it through what I have come to call the old people barriers, try checking out in that store…it will take more time than you are willing to give up from your life.

  6. John Davies says:

    >and I always feel self-conscious about buttoning it up too high or too low.

    Too low? I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the concept. That’s just impossible for me to understand.

    Sort of like C# 3.0

  7. tod hilton says:

    Hey now, I used to have long hair! ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. eR0CK says:

    In short, I don’t think they’re trying to get you in their store.  From their ads, the music, their models, etc … they’re catering primarily to teens and it works.

    Did they forget about you when they identified their consumer group?  Yes, they probably did.  Will that hurt their sales?  Probably not as much as you and I would like to think.

    Running with Tom’s comment … I prefer polo shirts, primarily free ones provided by software/hardware manufacturers.  I guess it’s the Admin in me ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Erich

  9. I wonder about Abercrombie. When the district manager is in town, does he/she encourage the manager to crank up the music like that? Now in my later 30’s I’ve decided to find less annoying places to shop like Eddie Bauer, Gap or Nordstrom. I like Abercrombie clothing and style but the shopping experience makes me feel really old.

    Plus, the lines always seem long even the store feels nearly empty to me. There will be 15 people in the store and 12 of them in line and another 6 employees up on ladders organizing  tight fitting sweaters.

  10. Jay R. Wren says:

    The same reason that MTV plays Real World vs. Road Rules, My Sweet 16, and NeXT  all day long:

    THE KIDS LOVE IT!

    And I think they are buying into the marketing research that says 15-21yr olds have 2+billion dollars of disposable income. (I don’t remember the exact numbers.)

    I agree with you.  I find the music offensive and appauling and I can proudly say the I have never step foot into this A and F store.  However, if they were blaring some good Chicane, Coil, Delerium, Everything But The Girl, Faithless or The Faint, then I’d probably wander in.  And that is only my C-F list.

  11. tod hilton says:

    eROCK- My brother used to think the same way (re: software/hardware mfr branded polos), but since being recently divorced was advised by female friends to burn them all. That is if he ever wanted to get another date. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Pat-luckily, unless I decide to paint my own pottery, I can pretty much avoid that corner of RTC.

    John Davies- hah! It can get drafty for us gals.

    eRock-are you trying to make me admit that I am not cool and can’t pass for a teenager? I won’t do it! : ) I just think they could have both segments if they turned the music down. Who doesn’t want to make *more* money? The experience makes me feel old though I have to say that Eddie Bauer makes me feel old for a different reason…it’s so sensible!

    Jay R. Wren-hey, I watch some of those shows. Time for me to grow up you say? Never! I have to admit that I don’t know any of those bands that you mention but I am guessing that you are within their target demographic just with different taste in music. Am I right?

    tod-your brother’s female friends did him a favor. I’d be happy to run a fashion clinic for anyone that needs it. But suffice to say that you can throw out any free logo merchadise and pleated pants. Trust me, you are doing yourself a favor! Ahh, the pleats….they just add bulk to the body. We did this exercise with a co-worker once and he is now engaged. He was wearing his cellphone in a leather pouch on his belt. I asked him if he was moonlighting as tech support because we were not on call. I explained to another co-worker recently that he couldn’t wear a short sleeved t-shirt under a suit jacket with jeans unless he wanted me to hum the theme to Miami Vice every time I saw him (ooh, he’s going to read this now too). Seriously, guys…if you need fashion advice from a female perspective, don’t be afraid to ask. Let me help you. I know about these things.

  13. mrscrooge says:

    Hey Heather, what do you think about Abercrombie’s ‘marketing’ tactics like selling teenage girls shirts which say things like I may not be perfect, but parts of me are pretty awesome" or "Who needs brains when you have these?" ?

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/289456_sexytees21.html?source=rss

  14. eR0CK says:

    Tod – if I’m out on the town, I don’t wear a free polo ๐Ÿ™‚  Wearing free polo’s to work allows me to spend more money on select evening wear … this way when I stroll into the city, attractive women (ahem, Heather) don’t give me the cross-eyed look of death.

    You’re totally cool Heather!  Everyone wants more money (btw, are you hiring? haha j/k).

    OK, assume A&F turns off the music, you go into the store as a slightly more happy customer and spend $X.  Are the teens effected now that the music no longer โ€˜bangsโ€™?  Do they feel ‘older’ now that the music is off?  Does the lack of music make the A&F experience blander like the GAP?  Do teens feel less trendy going into A&F without the music?  Heck, I feel the music alone intrigues, invites, and attracts teens just to browse, which ultimately leads to money being spent.  Iโ€™m not sure if the aforementioned thoughts are correct, but itโ€™s certainly something that must be considered and Iโ€™m sure it was.  

    Maybe A&F needs a blog to address Heatherโ€™s (and other consumers) questions?

    I’m no marketing genius, but I’d say if you weigh the outcomes vis-à-vis music or no music, I’d be willing to bet that A&F makes slightly more money with the music.  Not to mention that the music may attract more trendy/attractive employees.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    mrscrooge- I guess I say "where are the parents?". Companies want to make money and they know what sells. I do find the slogans a little crass (and coming from me, that is saying something) and in poor taste, however, I think parents should be involved in decisions their kids make and should be the ones ultimately responsible for what their kids wear. We all know I don’t have kids, so that is just my unqualified personal opinion.

    eRock- I’m glad to hear you don’t wear the polos out on the town. I certainly wouldn’t give someone in a sponsored polo the look of death if I saw them out at night, I just probably wouldn’t look at them at all (OK, I am only partially kidding…I think we should all take pride in how we look and that means making an effort..that’s all I am saying). Thanks for letting me know I am still cool. I do believe I have my moments!

    Interesting to think that the music actually draws kids in. I am going to ask my friend Suzanne, who has boys in the target age group. Maybe A & F needs an upscale brand for folks like me. They can take advantage of real estate economies by placing the store fronts next to each other. I bet they have done testing on the music. I guess I am just feeling a little ignored by them : )

  16. Margo says:

    I am 23 years old and I feel too "old" to walk into Abercrombie.  Not just the loud music and disgusting perfume they dip the clothing into, but mostly just the fits.  

    If you ask me, their demographic is pretty narrow – prepster frat boys with popped collars and sideways hats.

    Forgive the language here, but this is a description of the Abercrombie demographic as I have noticed from working at the mall – http://factualmaterial.com/douchebag.htm

    The funny thing is, where Abercrombie has alienated everyone, a place like Hot Topic has embraced everyone.  I worked there for one christmas season as a favor to a friend of mine who was a manager.  I had customers of all age groups, walks of life, and everyone was welcome.  I remember selling a pair of red vinyl high heels to an elderly lady who was telling me how her "hot date this weekend would fall out of his wheelchair" when he saw her in them.  

    If you want fantastic clothing that always looks good, I suggest The Limited.  I always have good luck there.

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    Margo, I like thinking about that sassy elderly lady. Cool! Express is owned by TheLimited so we must be pretty close in terms of taste. It’s just the easiest place for me to buy pants. Any place that does not carry short lengths is a waste of my time. I cycle through pants too quickly to spend too much money. I have a cute pair of $140 pants (from Nordstrom) hanging in my closet that are too big for me and I’m just waiting for the day I decide to get them taken in. That is the most that I have spent on pants that aren’t part of a suit and I don’t quite feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of them. All the rest of my pants will eventually make their way to goodwill.

  18. Wine-Oh says:

    Word of advice…Please dont wear the free polo shirts for a night out. That is so .com circa 1998. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    And for the record, I don’t think those polos are attractive as day-wear either. : )

  20. Wine-Oh says:

    Worse are the long sleeve chambray or khaki colored button down shirts. Blech!

  21. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-oh, what are you talking about…they go well with the cell phone clip!

  22. Too bad we don’t have Urban Outfitters. Overpriced but not bad. And for t-shirts there’s always threadless.com. My $100 worth of merchandise finally arrived last week… in time for the winter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Tim says:

    Abercrombie really gives me the willies. I don’t know why, but I am seriously creeped out whenever I go by. Though, as you may remember, I’m not much of a clothes shopper…

  24. cmh says:

    I am 18 years old and  i work at AnF. They are geared more towards teenagers and early 20’s. some people older than that like to shop there aswell tho. i like the music alot that they play. idk i guess its personal choice.

    abercrombie/hollister has a new store opening across the country its called Ruehl, that is focused towards the out of college group and is more refined then abercrombie.   They only have some stores open so far but you can check if any are near you on their website….    http://www.ruehl.com/

  25. anonymous says:

    I think Abercrombie has one of the best marketing strategies currently in the fashion/retail industry for the following reasons:

    1) They know who their customers are and they don’t try to be the "store for everyone." They promote a certain lifestyle and image that’s shown from their models, their brand reps, the fragrance in the store, the lighting, and the fit of the clothes. True, abercrombie isn’t for everyone, and it probably will rub a lot of people the wrong way, but retail chains that try to be everything for everyone usually end up failing. (Case in point – Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy sales/performance are declining very rapidly because they try to hit every target segment.

    2) They revolutionize the shopping experience. Face it, in the next few years, there’s an extreme likelihood that the percentage of shopping done online will increase dramatically, thereby decreasing the percentage of shopping in malls and in person. Problem – less advertising, less chance for retailers to "get you to buy something." Solution – promote the shopping experience by playing music, by playing with the lighting, offering the fragrance room spray, having good looking store reps. It’s not just a store, it’s an experience; much like how Starbucks isn’t just a coffee shop, it’s a place to relax from the hectic world, and catch up with friends.

    3) Promote demand by exclusion. Sound business tactic – yes. Morally ethical – debatable. Abercrombie drives up demand by promoting the lifestyle of a small segment of the population known as the in-crowd (the popular, attractive, confident, social), that everyone at one point or another has wanted to be a part of (or is a part of). Because of this, when a consumer buys a sweater or polo, he’s not just buying an article of clothing, he’s buying into a brand image that allows him some level of identification with that image. That’s why Abercrombie can charge such high margins on "casual" wear. Think brand campaign: casual luxury. This is also the reason why they’ve waited so long before extending their branches internationally. They wanted to create enough hype domestically so that once they open flagship stores in London or Tokyo, demand will skyrocket. They’ve already seen this happening in hotspot locations like Honolulu, HI (bridge between US and Japan) where sales have skyrocketed in past years.

    How long will their success last – who knows. Not me. But right now, they’re going to keep continuing what they’re doing because it works.

  26. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, but I just want a pair of sweats!

  27. Rebekah says:

    I do not think abercrombie’s music is too loud. Its probably been a LOOOOOOOOOONG time since you old folks have been in abercrombie. I love their clothes. I shop there a lot. They have awsome clothes. And I don’t think their clothes are too anything like you guys do.

  28. Rick says:

    Technically, I’m too old for Abercrombie. In fact, a hot 25 year old lady told me that most guys stopped wearing the "moose" when they were 18. Being self conscious, that leaves a temporary scar on my confidence. However, I don’t wear the clothes that have Abercrombie in huge letters across my chest, and I’m physically fit, so I think I look o.k. in their clothes. Hopefully, not everybody thinks I’m too ancient for the moose.

  29. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK rebekah, I think you kind of just made my point. Thanks

    Rick – don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t wear their clothes. Dressing your age is overrated!

  30. hazel says:

    Umm why would abercrombie want to hire u.They only hire teens.but ur really pretty. ( :

  31. HeatherLeigh says:

    Awww, thanks sweet pea ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. renee says:

    I went into a&f as I thought it would be a good spot to find

    a down jacket.

    o.m.g.!

    What is up with the REEK in that place??

    Came home, tried changing my clothes,  I still smell the repulsive Aberstench!  That place is grubby!

    The reek stuck on the inside of my nose and apparently will be there for awhile, I hate that place.

  33. HeatherLeigh says:

    haha…try a saline spray.

  34. sara says:

    i am a teenager and i totally agree with this article. i have probably been in abercrombie a total of three times and i have NEVER bought anything from that store. first of all, i dont see how anyone can shop in there for three reasons.

    1. I CANT BREATHE IN THERE! they want you buy their perfume so they spray it all over the store. the smell is so strong in there i feel like i am going to have an asma attack and i am not even asmatic!

    2. WHY IS IT SO DARK? i dont know how the abercrombie is where you people live but the one where i live dims the lights soo low you cannot even see where you are going. (maybe they dont want you to see the outrageous prices)

    3. Like the article says, THE MUSIC IS SO LOUD! i cannot hear myself think and most of the music is pretty crappy to begin with.

    i dont know how people can shop in there. the conditions just arent good. i cant think, breathe, or see when i get in there so how am i supposed to shop. i dont even think the clothes in there are any different than the clothes at a different, cheaper store. on top of that, i am a teenager so that probably tells you that i am pretty much broke to begin with. i cant afford even the cheapest clearence in there. i dont understand how you "abercrobieholics" do it.

  35. Abercrombie says:

    think about Abercrombie's 'marketing' tactics like selling teenage girls shirts which say things like I may not be perfect, but parts of me are pretty awesome.