Multi-sensory approach seems shallow at A&F’s EPIC Hollister

Articles
July 29, 2009

Multi-sensory approach seems shallow at A&F’s EPIC Hollister

Abercrombie & Fitch has its legions of hip, youthful devotees—you know, the ones who aspire to look like the half-dressed models on super-sized posters as you enter the stores.

Abercrombie & Fitch has its legions of hip, youthful devotees—you know, the ones who aspire to look like the half-dressed models on super-sized posters as you enter the stores. They generally have bodies that can carry the slim lines, and purposely draw attention to their key body parts by sporting A&F or Hollister brand logos in strategic places.

As if sexual innuendo and sound (the loud, pumping music) could numb consumers into profitable (for the retailer) buying decisions, and make people forget about the recession that is otherwise pinching their wallets, the youth apparel chain has turned up multi-sensory merchandising several notches with its newest EPIC Hollister store—a four-level, 40,000-square-foot affair at Houston & Broadway in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

Never mind that its namesake Hollister, California, is actually an inland city quite some distance from the Pacific Ocean and surfing, that it sits above a branch of the San Andreas Fault, and it is home to annual motorcycle rallies.  Both the store’s website and the store itself leverage the image and mentality of West Coast surfers, and the attitude of being first (with a new look) and exclusive (only for beautiful people).

Here’s an excerpt from the EPIC Hollister microsite, www.hcoridethewave.com: “I headed out to SoHo to see what the EPIC Hollister store was all about….Everyone who works there is hot as hell. It looks like how you wish everyone looked on the beach….They even have these live feeds of Huntington Beach on these sick flat screens.”

The site also invites visitors to “get cast” as a store model.  “Want to see your photo on a shopping bag? Start by working at the EPIC Hollister store. Submit photos.”  Bet you need the look in order to get cast. The site also allows visitors to download screensavers and send online postcards.  

Just like the inaccurate leap from Hollister to Huntington Beach (well, they are both in California), the store is a construct of ocean imagery, surfing culture, a physical layout that precludes quick shopping, and cologne scents sampled by shirtless male lifeguards and bikini-clad young ladies at the door. It’s not easy being a young person who just wants to belong, and this EPIC Hollister brand—in the store and at the website—doesn’t make it any easier.