After 7 years and several lawsuits, the A&F Quarterly has returned to the retail world. It was first released in 1997 as an innovative marketing tool for Abercrombie & Fitch. Known as a “maga-log”, this piece of publishing combined articles on travel, dining, entertainment, and interviews with provocative spreads of A&F “clothing”. Although you needed to be 18 to purchase the magazine, many organizations were outraged at the nudity and sexual content. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Family, the American Decency Association, and MADD were among some that voiced their opinions and called for boycotts of the publication. This, however, did not stop Abercrombie. Shoots got racier and more scandalous, with features like the best dorm drinking games, nude football games, and an interview with porn star Jenna Jameson. At its peak, there were approximately 1.2 million in circulation. Finally, after the most controversial issue, Christmas 2003, Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, announced that the A&F Quarterly would be discontinued. Although he claimed the decision was due to “boredom” and that they were looking for a new creative direction, many speculate that all the bad press was starting to affect sales. Through the rest of the decade, these quarterlies became coveted collectors items, selling on Ebay for as much as $122 an issue!
As sales began to wan in the States, the company began expanding internationally, opening stores in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Milan. In order to generate more hype, the decision was made to bring back a special edition magazine, Return to Paradise, for the opening of the London flagship store in summer 2008 and was fairly successful. Amid discouraging profits and a dismal forecast back at home, Abercrombie decided to re-launch the A&F Quarterly as part of their 2010 Back to School campaign. Trying to incorporate it into their overall marketing goal of the “A&F Screen” this issue will feature spreads done on Hollywood movie sets. Although the quarterly is a unique advertising method, market experts wonder just how prudent of a plan this is. With the world moving more and more toward digital marketing and away from print, launching a catalog in this economy can be dangerous. Also, at $10 a copy, it is hard to believe the typical Abercrombie customer will be willing to purchase it. Finally, what does this mean for the brand image of A&F? After working to restore the American public’s faith in the company, are they going to destroy all their efforts towards cleaning up their act? No matter what happens, it will be interesting to watch how customers, and sales, respond to the return of the notorious A&F Quarterly.