Abercrombie and Fitch History

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Abercrombie and Fitch history begins in the late 1800's when David T. Abercrombie opened his first store in Manhattan, New York. The date was June 4, 1892 when this fledgling sporting goods store opened to the public. Today, teen shoppers are usually not aware of the rich history behind this popular clothing giant.

Abercrombie and Fitch History and Facts

Early Beginnings

Abercrombie and Fitch started out as just Abercrombie Co. Mr. Abercrombie wanted to sell sporting goods to discriminating customers who wanted only the best for their outdoor expeditions. Famous shoppers who flocked to this store included Earnest Hemmingway, Amelia Earhart, Clark Gable and Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1900, Mr. Abercrombie collaborated with a frequent customer, Ezra Fitch. Things didn't go well during the partnership, and eventually the two parted ways. Mr. Abercrombie wanted to continue selling outdoor equipment to outdoorsmen and Mr. Fitch believed that they should start including more items that were popular with both the general public and outdoorsmen. The two men parted on bad terms with Mr. Abercrombie selling out his share of the company to Mr. Fitch. As the saying goes, that was history in the making.

A Growing Company

While many young shoppers think that Abercrombie and Fitch clothing is geared to a younger generation, this wasn't always so. The majority of the shoppers who flocked to the quickly multiplying company stores were still avid outdoors people, both men and women. Mr. Fitch continued to seek out ways to bring new customers to his stores, which is one of the many reasons this store has continued to be popular for over 100 years.

In 1909, Mr. Fitch introduced a mail-order catalog for the brand. This helped to reach a larger audience. As word of the company continued to spread, the business started growing exponentially. The store became known as the largest sporting goods store in the world.

Luxury and Practicality

In 1917 when Abercrombie and Fitch opened a store on Madison Avenue in New York City, the merchandise took up 12 floors of the store. For example, the basement boasted an indoor shooting range, the main floor sold outdoor sport equipment, including lawn games, the eighth floor housed fishing and camping equipment and the roof had a full-sized log cabin where Mr. Fitch used it as a town home. This is in stark contrast to the current stores, which can be located in shopping malls across the United States today.

Mr. Fitch Retires

In 1928, Mr. Fitch retired from operating the company. In 1939 the company's logo was ''The Greatest Sporting Goods Store in the World.''

In the late 1960's, the company began to fail financially and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1977. Another sporting goods store, Oshman's, acquired Abercrombie and Fitch, but they were also having trouble with brand identity and faltered as well.

The Limited to the Rescue

In 1988, Limited Brands acquired Abercrombie and Fitch. The Limited Brands are famous for their very successful stores, which include Victoria's Secret, Lerner New York, Express and Henri Bendel. Michael F. Jeffries was selected to head the division. His idea to turn around the Abercrombie and Fitch brand was to make it "sizzle with sex." This was a monumental change in the original concept that Mr. Abercrombie and Mr. Fitch had for the company. The clothing would be marketed to teenagers and college students.

The new marketing strategy worked, and stores began to appear in upscale malls across the United States. The company was enjoying growth in their new market, but they were still unsure of the store design and brand identity. In the early 1990's, the company returned to its roots in store design. They called the redesign the "canoe" storefront. It also began publishing what they called a "magalog" called the A&F Quarterly. It marketed clothing and included articles.

Continued Expansion

Since 2000, Abercrombie and Fitch history has continued to evolve. The company introduced new clothing brands including Hollister Co., Ruehl No. 925 and Gilly Hicks. In March of 2007, the company introduced its first store in London. During the first 6 hours of operation, this new flagship store generated over $280,000, signaling the continued success of the company, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Abercrombie and Fitch History