Abercrombie Gives It Up

Retailer Abercrombie &Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) , which has a long history of stirring up controversy, went too far with its most recent magalog. The rampant nudity and just-bordering-on-explicit layouts have inflamed critics for years, but what may have put this issue over the edge are the words "Group Sex" splashed across the front cover. After pulling the mag ostensibly to "make room" for its new girls' perfume last week, Abercrombie announced yesterday that the holiday issue of the Quarterly will be its last.

Good riddance. This game of baiting the media into covering the company's exploits and, in turn, entice young shoppers is getting old. And tired. I'm sure when Abercrombie started this, teens were excited to shop at a place that would turn out such naughty materials. Rebellion sells.

But at some point, the gig was up. Kids aren't dumb. They know when they're being marketed to. They realized what the company was up to after being beat over the head with it, and, judging by a slew of same-store sales declines, they simply stopped reacting. Abercrombie, on the other hand, kept pushing, hoping to eke out one last little ounce of shock value. What began as a novel approach to marketing ended up being just plain boring.

Abercrombie says it will unveil its new marketing strategy in the spring. I can't wait to see what the company comes up with. The way it handled the end of the Quarterly -- first, denying that pulling it had anything to do with the protests and promising to have another in stores in January, then just scrapping the whole thing altogether -- hardly inspires confidence. We'll see.

As for me, I dug out my stack of old Quarterlies last night. Look out eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) !

LouAnn Lofton owns shares of Abercrombie & Fitch. To talk about the company, check out our Abercrombie discussion board.

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