Abercrombie & Fitch is one of those retailers I can’t seem to walk away from. I am not sure if it’s because I am well aware of the brand history, my teen years as a mall rat, or the fact that I want to see them succeed / turn their business around. Either way, I am writing about them for the third time this year and once again, I am excited about it. Here’s hoping I can finally convince you to feel the same…
Yesterday I took a break from clients and blogging to head to the mall – specifically the newly renovated A&F store here in Houston. I had been reading about the concept changes corporate was implementing, and instead of just writing about it, I wanted to experience it first hand. So what changed?
Initially, as I walked up to the store I noticed the logo. It was no longer the one we grew up with but instead the original 1892 trademark of A&F, which I personally love. It made the brand feel a bit more authentic and mature. Second, the smell. I know I am slightly older than their target demographic but I was ecstatic to not be overwhelmed by their signature fragrance when I hit the door. That change alone made me want to step inside and stay a while. Last, but definitely not least, was the updated in-store design. Which allowed for a brighter, more modern shopping experience with an open concept layout. So instead of a wall dividing men's and women's, there was a 20 mannequin runway in the center of the store showcasing the new collections. It made the space feel welcoming, warm and inviting.
When it came to product, there were several styles I wanted to purchase- mostly because of the silhouette, fabric, and current promotion. For me, the mannequins and merchandising weren’t the selling point, the individual character and detailing of each item were. For example, the crewneck sweatshirt above was a must have item for me and I can’t even tell you the last time I purchased anything with an A&F logo. But the NYC embroidery and cozy fleece fabric made it impossible to put down. There was also uber-soft loungewear, distressed joggers, a linen striped button down, floral denim, and select canvas / leather accessories that caught my eye. But in the end, I added a navy jacquard scarf and a pleated dress for my sister’s engagement party to my purchase.
So why tell you all of this?
Mostly because I want you to realize that the brand you once knew / no longer wanted to shop has dramatically changed. It’s been working tirelessly to get back to it’s roots a bit and become a destination that the 20-something crowd wants to wear again. And I for one applaud the corporate team for their progress, as I know first hand how hard it is to not only re-brand, but then consistently deliver upon those expectations to gain customer loyalty. It’s definitely not easy and I truly believe that A&F continues to get better- especially when you combine this new atmosphere with their design aesthetic, make, and quality fabrics.
Lastly, I want to quickly thank Minjoo and Kat, two sales associates I met yesterday. They had no idea I was writing about the experience / taking notes as I walked through the store and yet they were incredibly helpful. The whole team in fact was very polite and excited about the layout changes, which only made the visit more enjoyable. As a former manager, that kind of passion / enthusiasm isn’t easy to come by and it’s the most important aspect of customer service. So congrats to the team there, hopefully you will see some traction thanks to the standards and personality you bring to the table.
Wishing the team at A&F the very best, and know that I truly enjoyed the changes you made to the store. Here’s to higher traffic, stronger sales, and a comeback I continue to cheer for…
For reference, I included some in-store images I took on my phone, and I apologize the quality isn’t great. I typically only share professional photos with you, but today is an exception. My hope is that it gets you to the Memorial City Mall (or at least on-line) to see how Abercrombie is evolving.