Can An Honest Approach Be Detrimental To Business?

Abercrombie & Fitch, 720 5th Avenue at 56th Street

Abercrombie & Fitch, 720 5th Avenue at 56th Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you haven’t heard by now the Abercrombie & Fitch backlash from the statements made by its overly honest CEO, Mike Jeffries, I don’t know where you’ve been.  Under a rock?!  No, those were foreclosed on in 2009, too.  But just in case that was something that zoomed past your attention, let’s catch up. Mike Jeffries explained in one fashion or another (no pun intended), the reason why A&F doesn’t carry larger sizes, at least for women, but it doesn’t target larger size wearers.  He said that Abercrombie & Fitch’s targeted market isn’t for everybody, only the “cool kids”.  The cool kids in school.  That could be the football players, or cheerleaders,  or student body officers (I really don’t know, it’s been a minute since I was last in high school).  The point being, Jeffries clearly defined who A&F’s target market was and said quite frankly that not everyone could fit into his selected demographic.  Now many bloggers, critics and writers felt the need to personally attack Jeffries and A&F for being honest about who they cater to.  But is Abercrombie & Fitch and Mike Jeffries really the bad guys here for not showing fashionably larger people some love?  As business owners and entrepreneurs, aren’t we doing the same thing?

Anyone in business, whether they’re looking to stay small on Main Street or build an empire, needs to focus on niche market, a group of people in which they can provide better products and/or services for than their competitors.  Businesses cannot be everything to everyone (we can leave Wal-Mart out of this discussion).  That’s what makes business, business.  But, should we tell customers this?  The reason we want a particular customer at our places of business is because we’ve already profiled our ideal shopper.  Seems a little straightforward, almost too honest.  But that’s want consumers want, right?  They want businesses to start being honest and open with their dealings with them.  Mike Jeffries obviously isn’t dealing with everyone, but he’s being honest about it.  He wants his company catering to a select few.  And yet, everyone is ready to start slinging mud in his direction.

For the rest of us not operating our businesses under scrutiny and in the limelight, we may count our lucky stars that we’re not in Mike Jeffries seat right now.  But we too will be faced with that dilemma, if we haven’t been already.  No matter what industry or field we’re in, everyone is not going to fit into our customer profile and that’s the bottom line.  Now, we don’t have to be as vocal about it as Jeffries was, but we need to be at least honest with ourselves about it.  After all, if we don’t hold ourselves to a certain standard, we have no foundation to continue to build on.  Even if that means we cannot and chose not to meet everyone’s needs.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the position Abercrombie & Fitch takes on carrying larger sizes, is Mike Jeffries wrong for being honest about who he targets towards?  Or were consumers a little sensitive to what he had to say?



2 thoughts on “Can An Honest Approach Be Detrimental To Business?

  1. Harry says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with the position Jeffries took. As a business owner you have to target your products to a particular customer base and stand by it in the face of challenges. There is nothing wrong with targeting a particular customer base as long as you remain true to that base and align your business to that group.

    • Agreed. Do you think there was anything wrong in the delivery of Jeffries standing by his position as to who Abercrombie & Fitch markets to or do you think people are making a bigger deal than what it is?

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