The Mean Girls of Retail: Abercrombie & Fitch

blog 2 photo 150x150 The Mean Girls of Retail: Abercrombie & FitchGotta love Mike Jeffries, the surgically altered (in a big way) CEO of teenage clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. He has grabbed the headlines yet again for his “mean girl” management philosophy. He doesn’t like uncool people and he dislikes ugly people. As for people who are fat? They have no place in the world of Abercrombie.

The Internet went wild last week as the media reported on a new book called The New Rules of Retail co-written by Robin Lewis. Lewis told the media that Mike Jeffries, “…doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people.” The basis of the comments come from an interview Jeffries did with in 2006. Jeffries explained his mean girl philosophy then as follows: “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.” He went on to say, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Refusing to make any concessions, the retailer stops at a size ten for women. As the outrage over his recently unearthed comments continued, Jeffries and A&F were unavailable for comment. Jeffries is simply going to sit this controversy out.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Abercrombie & Fitch. Could this become one of the most disliked brands in America?

The PR Takeaway: Be careful of whom you offend. Given that the comments date back some seven years there was an opportunity for Jeffries to revise his views, but he is not giving in. Fine to stick to his guns but with nearly 40 percent of American women considered overweight, and many controlling the purse strings of their teenagers, A&F may come to regret its no comment policy. One of the lessons from high school is that the world is a fickle place. It doesn’t take much to switch from being the popular kid at school to suddenly being the unpopular one.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful!

sambrick1 300x280 Dont Hate Me Because Im Beautiful!

The PR Verdict: “F” for “Samantha The Beautiful”.

The fastest way to light up the blogosphere? Write about the pain of being extremely beautiful.  Guaranteed to elicit rage and vitriol, that is exactly what happened to columnist Samantha Brick who published an article in London’s Daily Mail entitled, “‘There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful.”  And hate they certainly do.

In her column she talked of the pain of being blessed with extraordinary looks.  Samantha wrote of her gilded life as a beautiful woman, being routinely gifted free champagne, flirting with male bosses while at the same time annoying female friends and co-workers.

The Daily Mail’s website, received more than 3,000 comments in response to Brick’s cri de coeur, the vast bulk wondering out aloud if she really is as pretty as she claims.  Coverage followed in multiple UK and US publications.  “If you’re a woman reading this, I’d hazard that you’ve already formed your own opinion about me and it won’t be very flattering” she wrote insightfully.   Sometimes any publicity is not good publicity.

 The PR Verdict: “F” for “Samantha The Beautiful”.  Her column, read largely by women, annoyed and upset readers. Is this any way to build a following?

First principle of PR is that it is ALWAYS better to avoid talking oneself up and instead have someone do it for you.  It always has more  gravitas and is less disputed.  How different might the article have been if Samantha’s beauty had been verified by independent endorsement from friends and colleagues.  From there Samantha and her heartbreaking story of life among the mean girls might have carried more weight.  This time however she never got past first base.

To read Samantha Brick’s column click here.

What’s your PR verdict on Samantha Brick’s claim to fame?