Why this company is now America's most hated retailer

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Survey: Abercrombie & Fitch Is The Most Hated Retailer In America

It's not the one that first comes to mind.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Many retailers are having something of a crisis.

Partly this is because some people just can't be bothered to go to a physical retailer anymore.

Amazon, your 24-hour Jeeves that doesn't just provide a clean towel and bons mots, looks after so many needs that somehow a trip to a store is merely a drag.

If you have to go to the mall, or worse, some forlorn city center, which retailer gives you the creeps?

You're mumbling Walmart, aren't you?

Perhaps that's the worst for you, but it isn't the worst in the just-published American Consumer Satisfaction Index.

True, Walmart doesn't fare wonderfully. It scores a 66 rating, which puts it at the bottom of the department and discount stores. (At the top, Nordstrom.)

Take a look, though, at the bottom of the specialty retail stores list and you'll find one denuded entity that has a 65.

This really isn't a good score. It's 7 points below anyone else in that category. It's 12 points below the sector average.

Yes, it's only 1 point below Walmart, but, how can I put this: It's 6 points below Sears.

Wait, I haven't told you who it is.

Think gorgeous, topless teenage men. Think lines outside and darkness inside.

Yes, it's Abercrombie and Fitch.

ACSI's director of research seemed aghast when he told CNN: "Normally when we see that kind of a gap, it's a company so large it has monopoly power, like Walmart or McDonald's."

He worries that Abercrombie, which isn't that big, is in trouble.

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Why this company is now America's most hated retailer
FILE - In this file photo made Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009, a shopper holds a shopping bag in front of an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Portland, Ore. Abercrombie & Fitch narrowed its loss in the first quarter Tuesday, May 18, 2010, as sales improved in the U.S. and overseas, but the retailer lost more money than analysts expected as it made less money on some sales.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 26: Pedestrians walk by an Abercrombie & Fitch store on August 26, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Abercrombie & Fitch reported better-than-expected second quarter revenue falling to $817.8 million from $890.6 million one year ago. Analysts had predicted $811 million in revenue. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Holiday shoppers walk past a billboard for an Abercrombie & Fitch store, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009 in New York. Investors are hopeful that a report Friday on retail sales will show consumers are opening up their wallets this holiday season. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Shoppers carry an American Eagle Outfitters Inc. bag and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. bags in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. American Eagle Outfitters Inc. is expected to release earnings data on August 22. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 26: Pedestrians walk by an Abercrombie & Fitch store on August 26, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Abercrombie & Fitch reported better-than-expected second quarter revenue falling to $817.8 million from $890.6 million one year ago. Analysts had predicted $811 million in revenue. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
** FILE ** In a file photo a shopper carries an Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag after purchasing items in one of the company's New York stores Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005. The Commerce Department reported Friday Oct. 28, 2005, that economic activity expanded at an energetic 3.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, providing vivid evidence of the economy's stamina. Growth in the third quarter was broad-based, reflecting brisk spending by consumers, businesses and government. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Shoppers walk past an Abercrombie & Fitch Co. store at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, a survey which measures attitudes about the economy, is scheduled to be released on November 19. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A pedestrian walks by the Abercrombie & Fitch store Monday, Nov. 14, 2005 at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
MUNICH, GERMANY - OCTOBER 25: Male models pose outside the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship clothing store before the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch Munich flagship store on October 25, 2012 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)
Bare-chested models pose in front of the Abercrombie & Fitch shop on the Champs Elysees in Paris Thursday May 12, 2011, as of the promotion of the opening of the new U.S. brand shop in Paris.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Shoppers walk past a billboard for a soon-to-be opened Abercrombie and Fitch store outside a shopping mall on Thursday Aug. 18, 2011 in Singapore. The city-state's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned Singaporeans in his recent national day address that economic problems in the U.S. and Europe pose a serious risk to world growth which could lead to another recession. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A window at the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store on New York's Fifth Ave. is shown Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006. The teen retailer, based in New Albany, Ohio, reported Jan. 5, 2006 a 37 percent increase in sales for 2005. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Pedestrians walk pass a giant display ad for the retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch, on Saturday, May 14, 2005 on New York's Fifth Avenue. Abercrombie & Fitch is expected to release earnings after the market close on Tuesday, May 17, 2005. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
A woman walks past the Abercrombie & Fitch storefront at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland Thursday, May 5, 2005. Consumers showed more signs of caution during April, giving the nation's retailers mixed sales results for the month. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. had a 16 percent gain in same-store sales (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
**FILE** In this Feb. 13, 2006, file photo, shoppers walk past the entrance of the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store in Des Peres, Mo. On Friday, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales dipped 0.1 percent after edging up by the same amount in May. (AP Photo/James A. Finley)
FILE - In this May 25, 2011 file photo, an Abercrombie & Fitch employee, center, poses for photos with two customers at the entrance to the company's Fifth Avenue store, in New York. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, its second-quarter net income rose 64 percent, boosted by higher demand for its preppy fashions in the U.S. and Europe.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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Those who care about money and money alone agree with such an assessment.

So why is this once-lauded fashion brand an emperor with no clothes?

Well, it's in the middle of a so-called reinvention.

It's even put clothes back on its topless chaps. It's also trying not to throw a vast logo into everyone's face and onto every piece of clothing.

Stunningly, it's even allowing young human beings who aren't stunningly attractive to work in its stores.

This is, indeed, a revolution.

But in fashion, revolutions come and go like seasons. In seasons, in fact.

There might be something more, however.

Thin is the line between exclusive and exclusionary. It was all very well when Abercrombie at one point installed velvet ropes outside, forcing people to actually queue for its wares and dream of being inside the dark, forbidden place where the loud music was playing.

At some point, though, perhaps the hype went a little stale.

There was also the top(less)-down style of management. Former CEO Mike Jeffries was said to micromanage everything from the clothes to the length of staff fingernails.

Did no one ever consider that teens aren't exactly consistent beings?

Keeping them interested from one month to the next isn't exactly simple.

The last thing they want is what last year's teens were wearing.

They moved on. Abercrombie didn't. It still thought it was gorgeous and didn't realize that everyone had stopped staring at it.

Now, it's not only associated with out-of-date clothing, but with customers who get no satisfaction.

You won't get out of that just by looking pretty.

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