I just came home from a week in New York and something that lingers in my mind is the ineraseable impression of the ultra-hyped Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) store. Not nessesarily because of the clothing line, which in itself is rather mondane but because their rather peculiar marketing concept that includes headache-inducing fragrances and pumping electronic music in a dim lighted environment. All in all, this company aims to satisfy every one of the human senses. I bet the marketing manager of the company have read the article ”Experience economy” by Pine & Gilmore (1998) that suggests that the more senses you engage, the more memorable the experience will be.
The first thing that catch your attention is the long queue outside their flagship store at 5th avenue. A&F attract customers in the same way as the clubs. If other people are willing to stand in line to get in to the store, it must be great, right? You have to patiently wait about 30 minutes when all the eager customers in line, can muster up their expectations before they finally are granted access to the store. Pine & Gilmore (1998) argue that companies would benefit from creating an experience where customers actually are willing to pay a fee, just in order to enter the store. Maybe VIP queues for club members and entrance fees for ”normal” people is the next future step for stores?
When coming closer to the store, the smell from the A&F fragrance tickles your nose. Fierce (the name their brand fragrance) is sprayed on all the clothes in the store. I would rather have my own choice of perfume, without having to wash the clothes before usage. However, a sweet 12 year old girl told me, that I will eventually love the smell! The electronic dance music creates an upbeat, youth atmosphere. Fans of this music (and the store, of course) have the possibility to enter the A&F homepage and listen to the playlist at home.
What is interesting is that when you enter some of the other A&F brands such as Hollister it creates the same experience, the clothes even looked the same. A&F realized that they were cannibalizing on their own brand and therefore started to use different types of textiles for Hollister. However, the only major difference I could experience was a different fragrance on the Hollister collection.
The store personnel are called models and A&F only casts its own store employees for their marketing campaigns. The photographs carry the name of the appearing model and the store where he or she works. The models also appears on the shopping bags and has such an appeal that they have become collectables and can be bought on ebay. I´ve heard (through a friend of a friend 😉 ) that the store employees at A&F:s flagship store at the 5th avenue, are offered 100USD more a day if they dress in bikini at work. This would hopefully not apply in a Swedish setting. I wonder if the bikini offer goes for the male staff as well…
A&F is expanding and this year they will open a store in Copenhagen. Maybe we can also expect it in Stockholm soon, since they will open in Stockholm as soon as they find the proper location.
To me it is interesting how A&F has managed to differentiate a clothing brand with perfume and by having models as employees making customers willing to queue to enter the store and buy shopping bags on the second hand market. To conclude this blogpost, I offer you a quote from the Abercrombie & Fitch homepage: ”the only way to appreciate Abercrombie & Fitch is to genuinely experience it”.