How Abercrombie went from America’s most hated retailer to a Gen Z favorite

by Elizabeth Segran

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has been many things in its 130-year history. An outdoor clothier that dressed Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. A 90s-era mall chain notorious for its  homoerotic catalogs. The subject of a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court for refusing to hire a woman because of her hijab.

Last year, it added a new chapter to its story. It gained 285% on the stock market in 2023, making it the best performing stock on the S&P Index. It even beat out Nvidia, the AI chipmaker that’s been on a tear. It generated $4.03 billion in revenue during the twelve months ending in October 2023, with 10% year-over-year growth.

Abercrombie’s performance took many by surprise. After all, in 2016, the brand was voted America’s most hated retailer. And it was just two years ago that the Netflix documentary White Hot came out, which traced Abercrombie’s decline as its over-sexualized imagery and occasionally racist products fell out of favor with the millennial consumers who had grown up with the brand.

But since 2019, Abercrombie has been undertaking a quiet transformation, reimagining everything from its target customer to its supply chain. And from the brand’s financial results, it appears that the new generation of twentysomethings like what they see in this new iteration of Abercrombie. The brand expects to hit a $5 billion revenue target in the next few years.

By Kai Kelley Jr. (he/him)
Kai Kelley Jr. (he/him) Assistant Director, Entertainment, Media & Arts Career Community