Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie CEO, under fire for small sizes

May 9, 2013 5:46:05 AM PDT
Mike Jeffries of Abercrombie and Fitch is on the hot seat after the popular style chain is accused of discriminating against overweight customers, making clothes only for the thin.

At your nearest Abercrombie and Fitch, you can find shirtless salesmen and the latest distressed denim, but if you're looking for a women's extra-large blouse, you're out of luck. The trendy retailer's CEO doesn't want your business.

"He's been very, very successful, so he doesn't want anybody in the store that doesn't fit that cool, young and sexy definition," said Robin Lewis, co-author of "The New Rules of Retail."

Lewis says it's all part of CEO Mike Jeffries' master plan to cultivate what he considers cool.

An exam of the Abercrombie flagship store in New York City found mostly double-zeros, and extra-smalls and a couple of large tops and size 10 pants. Sales people there confirmed Abercrombie doesn't carry XL or XXL for women.

A spokesperson for Abercrombie and Fitch declined to comment, but in a 2006 interview CEO Jeffries told Salon magazine: "We go after the attractive all-American kid. A lot of people don't belong in our clothes, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."

"He is a brilliant visionary," Lewis said. "He really crystallized this core consumer he was going after."

But Lewis says it's a model that may not fit the future. Plus-sized shoppers now make up 67 percent of consumers.

"I think the young people today want cool, but as they define it themselves," Lewis said.

From Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign - highlighting real women - to H&M's inclusion of plus-sized swimsuit model Jennie Runk, many other brands are embracing that individualism and making their clothes more accessible. For example, rival retailers H&M and American Eagle both carry sizes up to 16 and 18 The largest at Abercrombie & Fitch is a 10.


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