Abercrombie & Fitch
David T. Abercrombie opened a small waterfront shop in 1898 on South Street in Manhattan called Abercrombie Co. A regular customer named Ezra Fitch, a high-profile lawyer, bought a major share in the company. The shop became Abercrombie & Fitch in 1904 when Ezra Fitch was officially named co-founder. Abercrombie sold his shares in 1907 because he wanted to keep it an outdoor gear store while Fitch wanted to expand into general retail. A&F also began producing its catalog during 1907, which almost bankrupted the company at first. It grew in popularity as the years passed, eventually becoming the official outfitter of the Charles Lindbergh flight across the Atlantic in 1927. It would eventually go bankrupt in 1975 and be purchased and reopened as a modern sporting goods store under the Oshman Company. The company was then acquired by Limited Brands in 1988 and its transformation into a sexy teen brand began.
The new Abercrombie & Fitch sold clothes with a preppy outdoors theme, reminiscent of the company's original roots and targeted 18-21 year-olds. The A&F quarterly was launched in 1997 and would draw even more attention to the brand. It was a "magalog" (combination of magazine and catalog) that featured articles about music, entertainment, and sex. Its overtly sexy photographs intrigued teenage customers while angering their parents. The 1999 Christmas offering caused particular outrage as it depicted a topless young woman on a horse with her hands over her breasts, along with other provocative images. The brand continued to grow despite this controversy and sales continued to rise. In fact, patrons at the New York City flagship store will encounter topless young men meandering through the merchandise. However, this constant attention from ads kept A&F afloat through the 1990's and 2000's as many teens looking for fast and cheap fashion brands such as H&M and Forever 21. Due to this phenomenon caused by the recession, Limited Brands reevaluated its holdings in 1999 and decided to sell A&F, making it once again an independent company.
Since becoming its own company in 1999, A&F has added extensions to the brand. These include abercrombie kids, which targets children from 7 to 14 and Hollister Co., a southern California-inspired store for teens 14 to 18, as well as Gilly Hicks, underwear and loungewear brand for women 18 and older. The company owns 1,049 stores across three brands and reported $1.15 billion in net sales during the 2011 fiscal year. Though this seems like a hefty sum, A&F continues to post dismal earnigns yearly, causing them to discontinue their logo-branded apparel. Since 2007, A&F has reimagined itself to combat their falling sales. No longer do they produce sexualized advertisements for attention or employ half-naked models around their stores, but instead focus on customer service and diversity. Regardless of A&F's new image, A&F still remains a topic of controversy. Recently they have received backlash for a thong line directed at young girls and back-to-school "humor tees" from 2009. Abercrombie and Fitch continues to struggle in today's market against competitors such as Forever 21, H&M, American Eagle, Express, and Aeropostale. Since 2015, there has been discussion of selling the company to one of its coimpetitors. However, A&F still remains in operation today and continues to try and succeed with an estimated market value of $650 million. They have even launched a new line this past year in an attempt to more effectively reach the brand's ideal "college-age" customer, opening two campus stores in August 2018.