Abercrombie and Fitch’s outspoken, and often hate-filled, CEO, Mike Jeffries has retired. His retirement comes as a surprise to industry insiders and consumers. While Jeffries has been a controversial figure, he’s remained relatively quiet in the last year, and no rumors about his departure were leaked prior to the announcement. No successor has been appointed, but three board members are expected to step in and take over the day-to-day operations of the company.
Shareholders have long been unhappy with Jeffries. The lack of change to the store to meet new tastes of American teens has been a sticking point. Jeffries’ comments about their clothes only being intended for “good looking people”, and statements regarding the poor wearing his clothing, has made him extremely controversial to the public.
Jeffries has also been difficult to work with, claims a lawsuit filed in 2010. His eccentricities and expectations appear to have grown exponentially in recent years, even as the clothing brand he took from the ground up, continued to falter. Jeffries brought A&F to fame in the 1990’s when he altered the brand with a sexy, outdoorsy appeal. Prior to Jeffries the company sold hiking and camping gear. Sales have fallen significantly over the last five year, however.
Economist Christian Broda chimes in that Abercrombie has yet to replicate the success they had in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Their lines, which cater to teens and early 20-somethings, has failed to morph and change with times. The clothes remain “prep school chic”, while the popular look among teens and young adults today is anything but. The company has tried to swing more towards the children’s direction in recent years, but has failed on that front as well.