As part of a larger strategy to keep up with the millennial consumer’s lifestyle, Abercrombie is adding special occasion apparel to its assortment, with an eye toward big life events many millennials are approaching, like weddings.
The shift into special occasion apparel comes at a time when the brand is looking to keep its upward momentum. Abercrombie & Fitch has struggled to connect with its consumers in the last 10-plus years. In 2008, the company’s net income totaled $476 million, compared to just $7 million in 2017. However, the Abercrombie brand has taken some big steps in the last two years to appeal to the 20- to 30-something customer. That includes investing big on a platform that most millennials use on a daily basis: Instagram. Late last year, Abercrombie joined Instagram’s beta testing for its Checkout feature, which allows shoppers to purchase products directly in the Instagram app.
Now, after talking to customers on social media to figure out where to go next, the brand landed on apparel that can be worn to weddings, bridal showers, office parties and engagement celebrations.
“We know [wedding] weekends are a significant part of [our customers’] lives. This collection came from us looking at our customer and getting direct feedback that they need and want us to make these products,” said Carey Krug, svp of marketing at Abercrombie & Fitch.
Liz Gottbrecht, vp of marketing at influencer platform Mavrck, said the shift into special occasion and wedding attire makes a lot of sense for the company.
“That millennial demographic is in the [wedding] sweet spot. The other difference is that those special occasions are now equally massive marketing opportunities. Wedding content is shared across every major social network and publication, and that’s amplified even more when the bride is an influencer,” Gottbrecht said.
The line is launching online first, at the end of March, and will make it into all Abercrombie stores in the coming months. It will be promoted across social media, through both paid and organic posts, with posts from the brand and millennial influencers, who will be paid or gifted product.
Special occasion attire won’t be a one-time thing for the brand, said Krug. While this first drop includes just 20 items for women and 20 for men, the brand will create more for summer as well as the holiday season — think office holiday party dresses and New Year’s Eve attire. The next drop is set for August. For women, the current collection primarily includes dresses, tops and skirts, while men’s items include woven shirts, polos, pants and blazers. All items are priced between $39 and $120.
Should consumers truly respond well to these new products, Gottbrecht said it’s a great decision on Abercrombie’s part.
“Abercrombie’s entrance into the highly competitive special occasion category could be a significant driver of new revenue if done right. There’s a significant, yet competitive, market opportunity for affordable bridesmaids dresses women will actually want to wear again — or not, in the rise of bridesmaid rental companies. The category is also immune to the instability of the current retail climate,” said Gottbrecht.
The wedding industry is a $3 billion market in the United States, with some millennials spending up to $1,000 to just attend a wedding, per The Knot. For Abercrombie, there’s a big opportunity to squeeze into that market, said Ben Weiss, director of client strategy at marketing firm SocialCode.
“Over the last 10 years, there are so many more options for consumers. Building loyalty and being the go-to destination for a variety of products becomes all the more challenging if you’re just selling pants and blouses. Abercrombie is widening the opportunity to create customer connections and is diversifying the way people interact with the brand,” Weiss said.
Parent company Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which also owns Hollister and Gilly Hicks, reported fourth-quarter earnings earlier this week. The company’s net sales reached $1.18 billion – a 3% increase from the same time last year. Net sales for the full year, ending Feb. 1, 2020, reached $3.62 billion. Abercrombie net sales were up in the fourth quarter from the previous year, going from $442.6 million to $474 million.