No Fat Customers Please – #BoycottAbercrombie

My kids have worn Abercrombie and Fitch clothes for the past few years even thought I find the advertising suggestive and the store environment not particularly inviting for the average adult (loud music, small aisles, very young staff). Even with that, I was shocked to see some of the recent news about their attitude towards their customers in response to why they don’t stock XL and XXL clothing sizes. With today’s focus on customer experience and competitive retail environment, this seems like not only a bad business model, but one that is shallow and unhealthy.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.” (source article)

But, a bad business model and a shallow minded CEO isn’t a reason to boycott a company. And, after growing up in a family where we boycotted many companies due to business practices, I never saw myself as someone who would support this “hippie” approach. That being said, I think that Abercrombie’s attitude is a real issue for the health of our kids for 3 reasons.

  1. We have a major obesity issue in the US. (from CDC)
    1. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
    2. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
    3. In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
    4. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
    5. Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.
  2. We have a bullying issue in the US. (source)
    1. Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
    2. 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4 percent of the time.
    3. Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
    4. 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
    5. 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
    6. Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
    7. 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
    8. 90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
    9. 1 out 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
    10. Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents.
    11. Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school.  Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.
  3. We have a suicide issue in the US. (CDC fact sheet)
    1. Among young adults ages 15 to 24 years old, there are approximately 100-200 attempts for every completed suicide.
    2. In a 2011 nationally-representative sample of youth in grades 9-12:
      1. 15.8% of students reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey;12.8% of students reported that they made a plan about how they would attempt suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey;
      2. 7.8% of students reported that they had attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months preceding the survey; and
      3. 2.4% of students reported that they had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that required medical attention.

 

As adults, I believe we have a responsibility to break the cycle of bullying and set an example. This isn’t time to create a fraternity culture in adulthood. We have systemic issues to address in serious ways. I know we won’t be shopping at Abercrombie again, and I think my kids have lost their interest in wearing the clothes.

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