Abercrombie ditches hunks and model types in favour of smart and friendly sales staff, also cuts sexy ads

Is the gentle breeze of conservatism blowing through the US teen apparel retail world? First there was American Apparel softening its ad stance earlier this month after years of controversial, overtly-sexualised campaigns. Now news comes that Abercrombie & Fitch is to cut “sexualised marketing”, will no longer employ staff on their “body type or physical attractiveness” and will also soften its stance on what theycan wear to work.

The retailer, in the midst of a major turnaround effort, also said that by July it would no longer feature “sexualised marketing” in materials including in-store photos, gift cards and shopping bags, and would stop using shirtless models at events and store openings for its two major brands, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister.

The only exception for depicting a shirtless model will be in its A&F Fierce fragrance, which remains “consistent” in beauty advertising.

Rather than call its sales staff ‘models’, employees will now simply be referred to as ‘brand representatives’.

The new hiring policy for both brands also states that the company wants to hire “nice, smart optimistic people” who have a “strong work ethic” and are focused on providing great customer service.

The company’s new dress code calls for workers simply be “neat, clean, natural and well-groomed.” However, unless approved, employees cannot wear excessive jewellery or make-up, visible piercings other than in the earlobes, large tattoos or headwear.

The company said it “expects that it will take some time for customers to realize the benefits of all of these changes.”

Abercrombie’s announcement Friday reworks an ideology introduced under former CEO Mike Jeffries, who stepped down after a long tenure in December.

Giving stores managers more say on how they display merchandise so that stores won’t feel as “prescriptive”. Dimly lit and heavily scented stores are also going, Abercrombie said, instead brightening its domestic Hollister stores “significantly” after making the same move in Europe and Asia. It’s also making changes to stores’ aroma and music and display trees, to offer what it described as “a more pleasurable shopping experience.” Many store shutters have also been removed.

“We’ve put the customer at the centre of the business,” said Christos Angelides, president of the Abercrombie brand, who along with Fran Horowitz, the Hollister brand’s head, is among internal candidates for CEO.

Earlier this month, American Apparel used family-friendly sloth Buttercup as its latest campaign star. ‘Meet Buttercup,’ the latest campaign implores, above an image of the three-fingered Bradypus sloth, the first to be rescued by Judy Arroyo, the woman who started The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica in 1997.

The sloth headlined American Apparel’s new look in aid of Earth Day 2015, and will star on a limited edition charity T-shirt designed by artist Todd Selby.

The move to a more wholesome image follows a year of turmoil at American Apparel, which ousted founder and CEO Dov Charney early last year following a string of allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment.

New American Apparel CEO Paula Schneider has vowed to wipe out the ‘culture of sleaze’.

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