Abercrombie & Fitch: An Upscale Sporting Goods Retailer Becomes a Leader in Trendy Apparel

            Abercrombie & Fitch is an American fashion retailer, headed by chairman and CEO Michael S. Jeffries. The A&F brand focuses on casual wear for a target consumer ages of 18 through 22. With over 300 locations in the United States, the brand has embarked on international expansion throughout various world markets. Its image has become synonymous with the American youth and has been a mark of multiple parody and controversy.

Great environmental threats that have immediate implications for A&F

            Among the main threats for A&F, there is the competition. Many apparel firms like American Eagle Outfitters, The Gap, Nautica, and Old Navy are getting a bigger share of the apparel market for teenagers.

            Another issue for A&F is the lawsuits. This company has been sued many times for discriminating practices and racy advertisement. Eventually, this legal matter has been fixed out of court.

            Besides that, imitation poses another threat for A&F. In many third world countries, the brand A&F have been copied without permission of the owners.

Great opportunities available in the marketplace for A&F to pursue

            In times of hard competition, A&F have the big opportunity in brand new markets like Asia and South America. In many places, this brand is still unknown.

            Another important issue for A&F should be providing accessories, as a way to expand their horizons. Not only being focused on clothing. Instead of, A&F can also offer new items like belts, wallets, purses, shoes, etc.

            Going beyond, A&F might consider a bigger target. Usually, when people think in A&F, they link this brand with teenagers. However, with the appropriate offer plus some changes, A&F might be able to offer products for people between 22 and 30 years old.

A&F greatest organizational strengths

            Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) was founded in 1892. This company has more than 100 years of experience doing business in the apparel market. That’s a big advantage over the competition. Besides that, A&F has international experience. This allowed the company to learn how to fit in new markets, how they can adjust their items to a different culture and how can these items should be offered in a different environment.

            Another important strength of A&F are their brand names like Abercrombie, Hollister and Ruehl. They already got a place on people’s mind. Even if Ruehl was not a successful experience, these brands have been providing an important share of the market for A&F. All this is backed by an interesting website which allows customers to see the items and buy them on line.

A&F: the company’s greatest weaknesses.

            Nowadays, on line sales are decreasing everywhere. A&F is not an exception and their website is not making enough sales to make it profitable.

             Even though, A&F image has become synonymous with the American youth, is also important to say that A&F has been a mark of multiple parody and controversy.   Discriminating employees have been a regular practice in A&F. Many lawsuits were filed against A&F because employees from minorities have been discriminated on the basis of race, receiving a different treatment than white employees.

            Sometimes, A&F advertisement has been blamed about being racy and offensive.  Many people feelings have been affected because of the sexuality or offensive slogans on A&F t-shirts. Most of the times, A&F efforts to look trendy have ended on lawsuits or deals out of the court because of this offensive advertisement.

            Another important subject to be mentioned: A&F doesn’t do an appropriate R&D. Any research and development department should have given enough importance to minorities. However, this company ignored all the trends and moves in the marketplace.

How can A&F strengths be used to deflect environmental threats and take advantage of opportunities to further the company’s success in the industry?

            Abercrombie & Fitch is heavily promoted as a near-luxury lifestyle concept. The move began in 2005 upon the opening of the Fifth Avenue flagship store. Being alongside Prada and other upscale retailers, the Abercrombie & Fitch image needed to be on par. The trademark “Casual Luxury” was thus introduced marketed as a fictional dictionary term with multiple definitions such as using “the finest cashmere, pima cottons, and highest quality leather to create the ultimate in casual, body conscious clothing, and implementing and/or incorporating time honored machinery …to produce the most exclusive denim…”

            This upscale image has allowed A&F to open flagships in international locations concentrating on high-end retailing. The “image” is continued, but the trademark itself is not as widely used as before.

            Abercrombie & Fitch fashions are casual, and are supposedly designed for the college-aged lifestyle. The clothing offerings are available in a variety of colors (black excluded). There is a heavy promotion of “Premium Jeans”, and the brand only carries underwear for men. Occasionally, there are northeastern college influenced looks, but the majority of the designs are trend driven.

            The company also offers the Abercrombie & Fitch Credit Card issued by the World Financial Network National Bank. Carriers can use the card in store and on-line for all A&F brands’. As the popularity of Abercrombie & Fitch goods increased, so did the counterfeiting of them. In 2006, the company launched the Abercrombie & Fitch Brand Protection Program to combat the issue worldwide (focusing more in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea) by working with legal forces globally.

            Shane Berry, who joined the company in November 2005, was placed in charge of the program. Berry is a former Supervisory Special Agent from the FBI, and was a part of its Intellectual Property Rights Program. The news release from A&F announcing its initiative stated that the “program will improve current practices and strategies by focusing on eliminating the supply of illicit Abercrombie & Fitch products.”

            The Brand Protection program covers all A&F brands; mainly A&F, Hollister and Ruehl (shuttered by end of January 2010). Assuring that its consumers are aware of the issue, the Abercrombie & Fitch Brand Protection and Abercrombie Brand protection features suggest customers to purchase from authentic stores and to report suspected A&F counterfeiting.

            The company’s Abercrombie & Fitch brand gift cards have been recognized by Consumer Affairs as a “top pick” for not having deceptive features such as expiration dates, dormancy fees, and post-purchase fees.

            The company has been considering European expansion for years and decided to enter the European market believing that the demand for Abercrombie & Fitch has grown strong there. After its expansion into the United Kingdom in 2007, where it launched its European flagship store in London, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. plans to continue expansion in the area with key locations – preliminary talks about opening a store in Dublin, Ireland by 2011. Abercrombie & Fitch has been attempting to secure locations in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Sweden.Image

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Electronic Surveillance of Employees

Determining whether there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy” typically involves many factors, including the employer’s policies and whether employees were notified of a lack of privacy, how and whether these policies were regularly enforced, the sort of privacy right involved, the nature of the employer’s business interest, the nature of the employee’s privacy interest, the type of information involved, and the level of intrusion by the employer.

Federal and state laws specifically address an employer’s right and ability to monitor, save, record, access, or otherwise conduct surveillance of employees’ use of company electronic communication resources and systems.

Generally speaking, if an employer complies with the notice and consent requirements under these laws, and writes and distributes policies consistent with the laws, it will be difficult for employees to show a reasonable expectation of privacy in using company-owned electronic communication systems.

Employees do have some privacy rights at work. But while some of these rights are inviolate, others can be overcome if you give employees appropriate notice and disclosure and if there are compelling business reasons in the employer’s favor.

Outside his or her own workspace, a corporate officer or employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy to challenge a search if he or she has a “possessory or proprietary interest” in the area searched and there is a connection between this area and his or her own workspace.

There are alternative methods of ascertaining the honesty of salespersons that are less invasive of the employees’ privacy. An example of that would be a salesman providing misleading information. To assess this situation for example, the manager could use surveys of customers to find out this information.

Nowadays, many businesses use customer surveys rather than electronic surveillance to evaluate the honesty of their sales personnel.

There is little specific regulation of private-sector employers’ surveillance activities. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 prohibits intercepting electronic communications but generally excepts business communications. An employer’s interest in monitoring his or her employees may conflict with the employees’ privacy interests. The employees’ interests may be asserted in a tort action for invasion of privacy. To succeed in such a tort action, an employee must show that he or she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being monitored.

Generally, if the employer can point to a legitimate and significant business reason for the surveillance, then the court may decide that the employer’s need outweighs the employees’ interests in privacy. The means of surveillance should not be extremely offensive—a court will consider the availability of less intrusive alternatives.

To further protect himself, an employer should inform employees that they are subject to monitoring—perhaps by setting up a highly visible surveillance system or distributing to all employees and job applicants copies of a surveillance policy, or both. Employees might also be given an opportunity to comment on the results of any surveillance.

With respect to innocent third parties (customers), they have to be informed that their conversations could be monitored, and they must give at least implied consent to the monitoring.Image

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.