Did Social Media Damage Abercrombie & Fitch’s Sales?

In Featured on App, Marketing and Sales, Social media by Vaughn Highfield

Abercrombie, Fitch, Social Media, Fat, Ugly, Mike Jeffries, Sales, Damaged, Buzzfeed, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Urban Outfitters

If you haven't realised by now, the Internet – social media specifically – can really turn the tides on your business. I'm sure this is known all too well to Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO Mike Jeffries who suffered a tirade of backlash for a resurgence around comments he made back in 2006.

In case you're unaware of exactly what these comments were, in summary he stated that his company doesn't cater to fat ugly people. This caused a social media slur campaign and the numbers show that it could well have had an effect on business.

It's worth noting that A&F's dismal sales were near enough as bad as those of American Eagle and Aeropostale, but their crash in the market could well be down to the mass effect the CEOs comments had on social media.

It gained so much furore that Jeffries became a meme on Reddit and Tumblr, gained the ire of Ellen DeGeneres, Sophia Bush and other celebrities, spurred a tiresome wave of self-acceptance essays and eventually led to Jeffries' half-hearted apology on Facebook.

Looking at the data, taken from social media intelligence company NetBase, there were 118,834 mentions of Abercrombie across Twitter, Facebook, blogs and news websites between May and July. That certainly sounds impressive, after all who doesn't want their name spread that much, but unfortunately 79 per cent of those mentions were negative.

It was even more damning for the teen clothing brand as they deliberately target the demographic of digitally native consumers. This means that even if they weren't participating in the mud-slinging, A&F customers were more than aware of what was going on.

In stores and online, sales slid by 10 per cent – which is on top of the 10 per cent decline last year. In the US alone they dropped by 11 per cent, while competitor American Eagle dropped by 7 per cent with Urban Outfitters increasing by five.

It's certainly very hard to tell just how much of this is down to poor marketing and handling of the social media outbreak, but it's clear that it had some form of impact upon their business.

But what can be done to ensure that similar mistakes don't happen elsewhere?

Surely the key point would be to make sure your CEO doesn't run his mouth off with controversial – and downright offensive – comments?

Either way, it's worth remembering that the Internet never forgets, so make sure whatever you're doing, you get it right first time.


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