The most hated retailer in America is a company that (1) somehow isn’t Walmart and yet (2) still managed to be anything but a surprise. This is a corporation that tried to force itself on the youth of America in a desperate bid to be “cool” — a fatal mistake for any brand trying to organically cultivate a culture of hipness. It boasts a departed CEO who declared that only “hot” people should be seen in his company’s clothes.
Also, this retailer happens to be a lightning rod for controversy over everything from sexism to ageism, to body shaming, and racial intolerance. If you haven’t guessed by now (or didn’t bother to peek at the above links), the most hated retailer in America is none other than Abercrombie & Fitch.
According to CNN Money, our most hated retailer managed to score a 65 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The retailer finished several points overall behind the next hated brand, Advanced Auto Parts, by seven points. Fortune reports that the retailer’s score was 12 points lower than the retail sector’s average score.
Forrest Morgeson, ACSI’s director of research, was a little surprised by the outcome. “Normally when we see that kind of a gap, it’s a company so large it has monopoly power like Walmart or McDonalds.” These are major brands that everyone is familiar with and typically love to hate. Morgeson observed, “Abercrombie & Fitch is not [that] large. This [survey result could] spell serious trouble for the company.”
Indeed. After years of going out of its way to exclude most Americans as customers or employees, Abercrombie & Fitch switched gears a couple of years ago, trying to rebrand itself as less shallow (calling its employees “models”) and racially diverse. That the retailer made this list despite such a very public attempt at an overhaul might ultimately spell doom.
It’s possible that such speculation is premature. After all, Fortune notes that after 11 consecutive quarters of decline, their most recent third quarter decline saw the downward spiral decelerate. Despite a lower than desired earnings period, Abercrombie & Fitch managed to take in $878.6 million, which was higher than anticipated.
It’s believed that the reason for the improved performance is a turnaround, however slight, in how potential customers view the company. Still, it’s hard to ignore that Abercrombie & Fitch is actually debuting on the most hated list after these changes.
Is it a sign this hated retailer has hit its bottom and will begin a miraculous climb? Possibly, or it just means that the brand’s descent into oblivion has leveled off enough to make A & F just tolerable enough to hang on for dear life a little while longer.
On the flip side, L Brands dominated the top of the most approved of retailers via its companies Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Costco. Other much approved of businesses include Amazon and Wegmans. These retailers managed scores over 80, making them far and away more liked than Abercrombie.
In case you’re wondering, CNN Money reports that Walmart made the most hated list after all, finishing just above the clothing retailer. “Walmart is doing fine business-wise, but at the same time, people really don’t like them,” said Morgeson.
It’s very possible Abercrombie & Fitch wouldn’t mind being disliked if it could match Walmart’s success. However, since that’s not practical at the moment, an outcome like this may force Abercrombie & Fitch to double its efforts to win over Americans and erase its controversial past.
The ASCI report is, as stated by CNN Money, is based on a survey of 9,358 customers. Survey responders are asked questions about their recent shopping experiences “at the country’s biggest retailers.” The index breaks down the survey outcome into six different sectors.
A & F earned its “most hated retailer” title by having the lowest score across all six sectors.
[Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]