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Abercrombie & Fitch shutting flagship store in Brussels

19:33 15/12/2020

The Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store on Boulevard de Waterloo in Brussels is shutting its doors for good on 9 January. The youthful fashion label had been struggling with a loss in customer base for some time, and the coronavirus crisis was the final nail in the coffin.

Abercrombie opened its first shop in Belgium in the famed Wittouck mansion in late 2011. The trendy American label had already made headlines by using a modelling agency to fill its 400 staff positions; all members of staff had to be young, attractive, slender and fit.

The more muscular male members of staff were shirtless on the first day, while others wore shorts as they greeted the crowds gathered outside – despite it being freezing cold. Belgian youth formed long lines outside the outlet on opening day.

Third retailer to close

The shop remained popular for months, but eventually the shine wore off – and abuses of staff began to leak out. One young man who worked in the stockroom showed up one morning unshaved and was forced to shave on the spot. Working several hours of overtime for evening staff was the norm. Legally, this must be a choice, but jobs were threatened if staff did not want to comply.

By 2015, the shop was ailing financially, with the arrival of strong competition like Superdry and Uniqlo and cheaper fashion outlets embracing trendier styles. It has now hung a poster in the window saying that they will close on 9 January.

The Abercrombie outlet on the Champs-Elysées in Paris has also announced that it is closing. In France, a legal investigation into discrimination in Abercrombie’s hiring practices is underway.

Abercrombie is the third business to close this year on the upscale Boulevard de Waterloo: lingerie shop La Perla and auto retailer BMW have also shut their doors. “These are three big names, and I’m sure that more will follow,” Joël Jiberot of the Waterloo Boulevard Retail Association told RTBF. “The economy is shut down, and for a luxury corridor like Waterloo, that has dramatic consequences.”

Photo: The Abercrombie models/sales team on opening day in 2011

Written by Lisa Bradshaw