Jan 18, 2019 in Analysis

Abercrombie & Fitch

Company Overview

Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) is a unique combination of simplicity and sophisticated sportswear chic. It is reflected not only in running for sports, tourism and recreation, but also in the original clothes and even perfume collections. The company manufactures goods for those people who appreciate not only beauty, but also comfort and quality of offered items. 

The name of this American brand consists of the names of the founder David T. Abercrombie along with the companion Ezra Fitch who joined him a few years later. Originally, the company was called Abercrombie Co. As David Abercrombie was a fisherman and an avid traveler, he opened a small shop on the beach in 1892. Only the highest quality products for extreme relaxation were presented in the shop. The founder also launched a small factory in New York. In 1900, Ezra Fitch, Abercrombie Co.’s charge by appointment joined the company. This event contributed to an official change of the company’s name to Abercrombie & Fitch Co. 1904 was a particularly successful year in the history of the company as it was the year of the first clothing catalog. Despite all the changes, the partners had conflicting views as for the company’s performance. As a result, David Abercrombie eventually left the company in 1907. In 1917, the company opened its first store in the heart of Manhattan. In 1928, Ezra Fitch retired from the company by selling it partially to his brother-in-law James Cobb and the employee Otis Guernsey. From 1920 to 1960, the company’s stores were offering about 15,000 kinds of fishing lures and 700 types of shotguns on the shelves.

However, the company’s further development was not so straightforward. The company had been on the verge of closing for several times. For example, this event took place in 1909, when lots of attention was paid to advertising and attracting new customers. In order to best meet the demands of modernity, Abercrombie & Fitch gradually expanded its range, moving away from predominantly sporting goods. For example, the company started to sell branded jars, cameras and board games. 

Over times, Abercrombie & Fitch has been further expanding by acquiring such companies as Von Lengerke & Detmold and Griffin & Howe. In addition to the huge range of fishing products and weapons, there has appeared an interest towards such sports as tennis, polo and others, making the company more a general store of not only sports goods. In addition to clothes, shoes and bags, the Abercrombie & Fitch brand has become popular because of the line of luxury fragrances embodying youth audacity, extravagance as well as sensuality and elegance. The company offered gentle scents, high-quality components, lasting fragrance that lasts on the skin for a few days, as well as custom design bottles, reflecting the latest trends of fashion collections. All the features make the perfume from Abercrombie & Fitch one of the favorite flavors of energetic and bright young people. 

As of today, the company’s popularity has become so great that the number of stores located all over the globe reached the mark of 250. Millions of customers have been enjoying the benefits of an online store for a long time. Because of the basic concept of the company that is luxury in the everyday life, many fans of an active lifestyle and comfortable clothing can enjoy attractive, high-quality and stylish clothes, accompanied with a pleasant aroma and stylish accessories. Additionally, customers are allowed to buy Abercrombie & Fitch clothing in retail stores only. 

Today, making a purchase at Abercrombie & Fitch means not just buying another pair of pants or a sweater. It means a certain style of life, which adheres to vigorous, independent and sexy boys and girls. Anyone who has entered the company’s store at a local mall knows that this is the place for slender fashionable women and tough athletic guys. Everyone feels himself/herself comfortable in the clothes of the legendary brand during morning jogging or in the luxury restaurant (Griffin, 2012). 

Best Practices

Heizer and Render (2013) outline “five components of job design, which are job specialization, job expansion, psychological components, motivation and incentive systems” (p. 400). In order to showcase successful practice to human resources, Abercrombie & Fitch has conducted an annually issued Corporate Responsibility Report. It is aimed at establishing correct policies to any aspect of business, as well as maintaining the standards and improving the company’s social responsibility. 

In terms of Abercrombie & Fitch’s job specialization, the company’s strategy is to provide variable and comprehend development in any its aspects, giving its employees a chance to improve their professional qualities. It is supported by the diversity of the company’s directions including Merchandising, International Expansion, Human Resources, Sourcing, Legal and Stores. Although A&F is a manufacturing company without its own production capacities, the business rents assembly line space for the production of clothes. It is an advantage for the workers as the use of assembly line allows them not to be engaged in the manufacturing process itself, but only manage it. It contributes to the reduction of the cost of maintenance of the company’s labor and energy resources, as well as the recurring costs of depreciation of equipment and others. The variety of goods presented and improved by the company every year allows A&F to apply the component of job expansion to its employees. According to Manlow (2009), the successful practice of A&F’s employee empowerment is that the company encourages its personnel to follow the company’s principles in daily activity. It can be traced in their claim to follow neat appearance looking more stylish and wearing the brand’s clothes. Everyone who can meet the requirements can obtain such benefits as getting more responsibilities on the job position. 

Considering the fact that psychological components should contain different experience, performance adequacy and importance, independence, as well as meeting the requirements, it is relevant to extract the following successful practices presented at A&F. Thus, the company allows its employees to act like models for promoting and selling clothes. Additionally, working for the company has an impact on every worker in terms of improving their personality. It is related to their attitude to fashion as they must look in accordance to the brand’s values, which influences their ideology representing their personal growth. The company’s corporate mission, which lies in the contribution of the society’s happiness by offering fashion goods and improving people’s appearance, has helped the company to earn worldwide fame and millions of customers all over the globe. Moreover, every successful employee deserves a right of being proud only of his/her satisfied position at the company, but also positive changes in the appearance that grant the employee independence and success in life. 

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One of the corporate responsibilities is to ensure the team is managed and encouraged to make progress during the working process in the company. Thus, it has developed and implemented the training program for the company’s supervisors and managers aimed at fixing all the issues that may arise during the work. According to “A&F cares” (2011), the company has developed “a blend of e-learning based programs, skill building courses and theatre-based learning to highlight real world scenarios that provide constructive and proactive ways to respond to the issues like cultural awareness and building cross-functional teams, as well as signature programs” (p. 8). In addition to this, the company’s bi-annual diversity week program has been designed to help workers understand the reasons they are in the team, as well as find the ways to improve the performance. The Diversity Champions program is a way to extract leaders in the staff. The advantage of the program is that all candidates are nominated by employee, which allows considering the program reliable. The program is characterized by independent views. The Diversity Challenge contest is a chance for everyone involved in the campaign to show himself/herself and earn respect within the team and its leaders. 

Employee Empowerment

Empowerment means ensuring the authority to do whatever is necessary to meet the demands of consumers, and trusting subordinates so that they make the right choice without waiting for the consent of the manager. Empowerment is a logical extension of the concept of the involvement of employees, for example, a worker’s participation in decision-making process. In some companies, empowerment is used as a generic term to describe all aspects that lead to higher employee involvement in the decision-making process.  However, empowerment is not the equivalent of conventional engagement. It reflects a higher degree of involvement, in which workers make their own decisions and are responsible for their consequences. In other words, it is more radical changes than mere participation of employees in the manager’s decision-making process, even if they can somehow influence them. 

For empowerment to be implemented in practice, managers need to practice three major initiatives. First is to determine the readiness and capabilities of each employee to cope with the proposed powers. Second is to identify and create organizational conditions for giving workers authority. Third is to increase the trust of subordinates, convincing them that their efforts to achieve important goals will be successful. 

Employee empowerment is the application of the principle of teamwork to achieve total quality, including ‘vertical’ teamwork management and non-management staff. If workers receive really a lot of responsibility, plus sufficient power and resources to implement them, it is possible to describe their relationships with the leaders as team work, but not the one that is in a hierarchical system (Huq, 2010).  

Considering the company’s best practices, it is relevant to notice that the practice of employee empowerment is a good way for the management to improve productivity of the staff. Thus, everyone who meets the company’s requirements in terms of their vision of a person who should wear the brand’s goods can be promoted and get additional job responsibilities. Moreover, the company calls every employee the model, so he/she should wear the brand’s clothes in daily activities, which is in compliance to A&F’s vision. For those who recently joined the staff or who does not meet the requirements, it is a good chance to improve themselves, their appearance and ideology. Additionally, the changes will positively affect a person’s awareness and help to find a better position in the society. It is believed that the changes may positively affect not only the employees’ performance, but the entire generation.  

Morale

Morale is a sustainable moral status of the group, which reflects people’s mood, their group opinion related to each other, along with the most important material and spiritual values, as well as the objectives of the group. There is not just the sum of mental ingredients of the individuals in morale. There is also a powerful factor of strengthening mental attitude of team members. People inevitably enter business and psychological contact in the joint activities. They also cooperate and communicate with each other. Contact communication is an integral part of the life of any primary collective and its spiritual needs. Social, cognitive and other activities arise on the basis of these needs. It also contributes to individuals’ maintenance and regulation with the nearest environment of the social community. A direct exchange of thoughts, opinions and ideas arises in joint and reciprocal people’s actions. Various forms of people’s mutual relations to each other are manifested in daily activities, which are generally called interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal psychological relations have an exceptionally large influence on the employees’ behavior (Deckop, 2006).

Considering the company’s best practices, it is relevant to notice that they are a good way for the management to improve productivity of the staff. Especially, it is related to the programs established and implemented in the practice, particularly the Diversity Champion and Diversity Challenge programs. These programs are of paramount importance for this stage of initiatives as they allow searching for the best employees, showing a good example for those who wish to grow within the company, as well as contributing to the increase of morale in the team. Moreover, Diversity Challenge program is aimed to establish competitive environment among the staff, while the benefit of the Diversity Champion program is a chance of getting a promotion, along with recognition and respect among all the company’s employees. 

Recommendations

A&F is being criticized for discrimination and racism that affect the staff’s morale and empowerment. From this standpoint, it is relevant to recommend the management to reconsider the strategy of encouraging only those who look according to the brand’s identity, but value each of the employees. Another recommendation is to empower the staff with more responsibilities and shorten the time of promotion. The idea of this is that A&F has been criticized for a long time for people to get promoted and it is almost impossible to get it for those looking not like American (John & Paisner, 2007). 

The offered recommendations are aimed at improving employees’ productivity, as well as their professional growth. Moreover, if there is no racism and discrimination practices in the company, it will help to increase the employees’ respect. In this case, they will work harder and every one of them will be assured that he is an important part of the team. Additionally, the staff will be able to take part in the decision making process and promote the company using democratic views, which attract not only the younger generation, but may be effective for the creation of new target groups. Any incentives aimed at cooperation with the personnel will be a good sign for the company who wish to show the entire world that it analyzes its mistakes and sums up positive outcomes.

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