Abercrombie's Got Its Own Image Situation


Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) has caused a ruckus by announcing that it plans to pony up a "substantial payment" to Jersey Shore's six-pack flashing Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino not to wear its apparel. According to the retailer, "This association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans."

Talk about the pot calling the be-sixpacked kettle black. For "distressing" behavior, Abercrombie need only look in the three-way mirror:

  • The retailer previously got into hot water for allegedly rating employees' faces. Those who scored lower on the numerical "hotness" scale were supposedly booted from the sales floor.

  • It's also had to settle racial and sex discrimination cases in the past. Its settlement included unusual stipulations, such as ending its focus on recruiting workers from white fraternities and sororities.

  • One of Abercrombie's campaigns used photos of naked models in a "magalog" that pushed the line between "sex sells" marketing and what many considered to be soft pornography.

  • Selling thong underwear for preteens, and peddling T-shirts for young women with slogans like, "Who Needs Brains When You Have These?" doesn't exactly scream "aspirational brand."

  • Abercrombie & Fitch
    Abercrombie & Fitch

    At least The Situation is in the age-appropriate demographic to wear Abercrombie garb. Salon's Benoit Denizet-Lewis described Abercrombie's CEO Mike Jeffries as a 61-year-old in flip-flops who said "dude" a lot, dyed his hair blond, and wore an Abercrombie muscle polo to the interview.

  • Abercrombie actually has a history of giving people lots of money not to do things. It previously paid Jeffries $4 million to refrain from flying the corporate jet so much. Shareholders should really question how this company throws its money around.

While this ridiculous Situation situation may just be a publicity stunt, the company's effectively paying the silly people on Jersey Shore to shop at rival teen retailers like American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), Aeropostale (ARO), Buckle (BKE), and Urban Outfitters (URBN), and talk up those brands on TV. That's certainly an ironic situation for Abercrombie's business, don't you think?

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Urban Outfitters.