At Abercrombie & Fitch, Sex No Longer Sells

By Sapna Maheshwari

Abercrombie & Fitch’s (ANF) skin-filled ads and nightclub vibe once delighted American teenagers and infuriated parents. Today, many aren’t even paying attention. The once-edgy retailer has lost a third of its market value in the past year as it grapples with falling sales in Europe and the U.S. While Abercrombie blames the economy for its woes, brand consultants say it also has failed to change with the times.

Today’s teens are underwhelmed by the half-naked models and blaring, dimly lit stores. They’re also less inclined to wear Abercrombie’s longtime uniform of pricey denim and graphic T-shirts. “The trick for fashion brands is how to keep the core edgy and hot,” says Allen Adamson, a managing director at brand consulting firm Landor Associates.

U.S. revenue at Abercrombie’s namesake stores and its Hollister chain slipped 2.5 percent in the first half of fiscal 2012, and the retailer is bracing for lower sales in the second half at stores open for more than a year. Abercrombie, which declined comment for this story, shuttered 71 U.S. stores in its most recent fiscal year, and in February said it will close another 180 through 2015. It now has 1,055 stores worldwide.

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