Poor, misunderstood Abercrombie & Fitch
In response, Abercrombie communications director Thomas Lennox released a statement to The New York Times that said, "We love West Virginia. and we honor all 50 states of the union." Pardon me, but I fail to see how West Virginians should feel honored by a shirt that tars them all with the incestuous hick stereotype.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my share of ribald humor, but this shirt isn't all that funny. So was it worth ticking off an entire state? Does management even consider the fallout of its "humor" shirts? How about one that encourages male buddies to "recycle" a buxom, Meyer-esque woman, or one with a turned-off light switch that reminds us "Beauty is only a click away." What about the "Jolly Jugs" T-shirt for women? Priceless. The little girls' tee that advocates skipping school seems tame by comparison.
When is the adolescent sex joke going to get old, folks? That question doesn't seem to occur to Abercrombie & Fitch. But investors may want to give it some thought, because parents, who provide many of the dollars that flow into the firm's coffers, may eventually tire of the smarmy marketing and products. What happens when the money starts flowing to competitors like Gap
Last fall, slow-to-rankle LouAnn Lofton was shaking her head at tasteless missteps, including thong underwear for the grade-school set, smutty catalogs, and a hiring policy that was alleged to favor bouncy blondes. In January, Tom Gardner tried to give the firm the benefit of the doubt, but wound up deciding that Abercrombie seemed unlikely to clean up its act over the long run, because of a lack of a true ownership culture among executives.
The recent flap seems to bear out that assessment. Make a buck now, no matter what it takes. A&F will undoubtedly see a spike in naughty shirt sales because of articles like this one, but shareholders might consider getting off this train before the drivers wreck it for good.
Discuss the T-shirt flap in the Fool's Abercrombie and Fitch board.