LONDON — Abercrombie & Fitch's Quarterly is rising from the ashes — in a more cerebral and sophisticated form, but still with the nudity that made it infamous.
The retailer is marking the one-year anniversary of its London flagship with the relaunch of its quarterly, which will weigh in at 200 pages and cost a whopping 50 pounds, or about $100.
A&F sees the relaunch as a way to celebrate the London store's success. According to Tom Lennox, vice president of corporate communications, the store has exceeded internal expectations and is pulling in annual sales of $50 million. Sales per square foot are comparable to that of A&F's New York Fifth Avenue flagship, he said, although the profits are better in London.
The retailer will unveil the new version of its quarterly on April 5 at the store, which is located on the corner of Burlington Gardens and Savile Row. The book will feature erotic photography by Bruce Weber, who has long photographed A&F's bare-chested men (and women); editorial is overseen by Tyler Brûlé, founder of Wallpaper and Monocle magazines, and creative direction is by Sam Shahid.
The limited-run, case-bound book will be printed on heavy paper and distributed exclusively through the London store. The old quarterly was priced at $4 and was more of a magalogue.
"The London anniversary was a great opportunity for us to bring back the quarterly," said Lennox, adding the new title was a reflection of the brand's growth, evolution and more diverse audience.
A&F killed the original quarterly in December 2003 after six years and more than $100 million invested. That title had become an albatross, increasingly uncool to A&F's demographic which had, at the time, started to move on. It also had turned into a perennial public relations problem for the retailer, lambasted by a variety of groups for its liberal use of nudity, teen drinking and sex in advertising A&F products.
"Our audience is much wider today, they're more savvy, and have more of a global perspective. The old quarterly served its purpose and ran its course, and it was time for a change. It was about pranks — and more sophomoric," said Lennox.The new book is all about lifestyle, and will carry no branded A&F product. "We don't want to be seen to be hawking T-shirts and jeans," said Lennox. "It's about communicating the elements of the brand."
Lennox declined to say how much A&F was investing in the new quarterly.
The theme is "Return to Paradise," and Lennox said the editorial has a "more intelligent approach" with travel features that focus on Seattle; Waikiki, Hawaii; Los Angeles, and New Orleans; a story on hot U.S entrepreneurs under 25, and one on the thrift and vintage clothing stores along Route 66.
Weber's images are still erotic, with color photos of topless young men and women and scantily clad couples frolicking in lush, Edenic backdrops. Lennox called the images "beautiful" and said he was expecting British audiences to accept the nudity better than the Americans would. "The Brits are less uptight," he said.
Lennox said A&F viewed the quarterly as a "focused and effective" advertising tool, even though it will not actively sell or credit any A&F product.
With the London store ticking along, Lennox said A&F was looking to secure other sites throughout continental Europe. He said Milan was a priority, and that the company was also looking for sites in Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Copenhagen. He said the timing for all was "ASAP" and that the company was "close on a few deals."
At the end of 2009, A&F plans to open its first store in Japan, an 11-story, all-retail unit in Tokyo's Ginza.
As for the Hollister brand, Lennox said the plan is to open four new Hollister stores in England later this year, mostly in mall locations. The next Hollister store will open in the Brent Cross shopping mall in north London; the other sites are still under negotiation.
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