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A Business Lesson From Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie StoreAlthough his message may have been unwelcome, a retail CEO made news when he explained what his ideal customer looks like.

Not Trying to Please Everyone

Some businesses make no effort to please everyone or to attract the broadest possible customer base. They develop a product or service that is designed for a specific type of individual, and they market only to that demographic group.

This is common in sports-themed businesses, for example. Bike stores are stocking products and displaying them in a way that appeals to bike riders. They may answer questions from the novice, but they will present the information in a way that would appeal to their target customer.

Most businesses will probably not turn away a prospective customer, but there are legitimate reasons to consider as to why they should turn some prospects away. If a potential customer is clearly not someone who intends to buy your product or service, time spent with them could be unproductive.

In business, time really is money, but more importantly, time is limited. Time spent explaining your business to someone clearly not suited to use your product or service is time that cannot be spent doing a more productive task that could increase revenue or profits.

But Should You Say That?

The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch attracted media attention when he said he “doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people.” To be sure that his message was clear, he added that he “doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the cool kids.”

The stores offer only a limited selection of smaller sizes so there is no risk of losing the business of large customers. While the CEO could have delivered the message in a less blunt way, his message is that he has defined his market, and wants his staff focused on their customers. Small-business owners could use a similar focus, although most should craft the message in a more tactful manner.

Photo Credit: thinkretail, Flickr. 


Michael Carr is a small business expert who has been involved in the successful development of three small businesses.