Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries is once again attracting all the wrong kinds of attention.
Last week, Business Insider highlighted the retailer's longstanding practice of only stocking small sizes and spurning plus-sized customers. It pointed to a 2006 Salon interview in which Jeffries candidly allowed that "we go after the attractive all-American kid" and that "a lot of people don't belong in our clothes."
That practice is nothing new, then, but it's once again thrust the eccentric executive into the public spotlight. In 2010, the retailer was sued by a corporate jet pilot who claimed he was fired for being too old. And last year an interesting tidbit from that suit hit the press: An airline manual describing the CEO's curious standards for his flight crew. The press grabbed hold of the sordid details, including the fact that the flight attendants were required to be young men in Abercrombie jeans, boxer briefs and wearing a spritz of Abercrombie-brand cologne.
So Jeffries' no-fat-customers policy may have more to do with his own personal predilections for youth and beauty than any rational business argument.
The renewed focus on Abercrombie's business model also has a lot of people talking about Jeffries' own appearance, which many attribute to the 68-year-old CEO using plastic surgery to fight the ravages of time. One user on Reddit posted a recent picture of the executive and declared him "too ugly to work at his own stores"; the line of attack has gone viral, with various critics mocking the seeming disconnect between Jeffries' strange appearance and his stated desire to only cater to the thin and beautiful.
Regardless of Jeffries' supposed hypocrisy, there's an argument to be made that restricting his target audience might be bad for business. As one commentator notes, two-thirds of American clothes-buyers are considered plus-sized, so Abercrombie might want to consider tweaking its offerings to sell to a broader cross-section of consumers.
UPDATE: The latest development in this saga addresses the controversy in a way that's a bit more clever than calling Jeffries ugly. Writer Greg Karber has started a campaign he's dubbed "Fitch the Homeless," which donates Abercrombie and Fitch clothing to homeless people. Since Jeffries is on record as stating that he only wants "attractive" and "cool" people to wear his clothes, Karber is obviously aiming to is to antagonize Jeffries by making it the preferred brand for the homeless.
While we're not crazy about the idea of using homeless as props in this fights, we're guessing they don't really mind getting some new clothes.