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Mike Jeffries Puts A&F Under Scrutiny

A new book looks at the retailer’s discriminatory tactics

Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, is making more controversial headlines. The popular retailer is again being accused of discriminating against plus-sizes, something that many people already knew.

The issue of body elitism by the company first came to light in 2006 during an interview in Salon with Jeffries. Jeffries made several statements that showed a clear prejudice against those classified as overweight.

“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores,” Jeffries said. “Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Retail industry analyst Robin Lewis’s book, The New Rules of Retail, takes a condemning view of Jeffries’ strategies.

“He only wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing.”

Lewis’ comments aren’t news to people. Abercrombie & Fitch ads usually show young, thin models wearing very little clothing. The ads are often considered risqué and inappropriate by many. Jeffries says that’s exactly the image that he wants.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.”

And Jeffries makes sure they can’t belong. The retailer doesn’t stock sizes over large, and its pants only go up to a size ten.

In the long run, these practices not only generate bad publicity, but could also affect the company’s sales. Estimates suggest that two-thirds America’s clothes buying population is classified as plus-size. Meaning that Jeffries stance may have to change if he wants to keep his business.

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