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Abercrombie: What's the naked truth?
Advocacy group says retailer pulled racy mag over protest; A&F says it's making space for perfume.
December 2, 2003: 4:03 PM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Did Abercrombie & Fitch pull its racy holiday catalog from its stores because of pressure or perfume?

Pressure, says the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Cincinnati-based organization boasted this week that Abercrombie took the step after it started campaigning for a boycott of the retailer because of its "Christmas Field Guide." The group alleges that the chain uses the catalog as a pretext to sell sexual ideology to teens.

Take another whiff, suggested Abercrombie spokesman Hampton Carney.

Page out of the holiday quarterly: Models wearing Abercrombie & Fitch underwear.  
Page out of the holiday quarterly: Models wearing Abercrombie & Fitch underwear.

"The reason we pulled the holiday issue from stores is because we just launched a new perfume called NOW and we had to make space on the counter for the product," Carney said Tuesday.

"We put this holiday issue out earlier than usual, but it was still in our stores for six weeks. The quarterlies usually stay in stores for between six to eight weeks," Carney added. "Honestly, we would have kept this issue in stores longer if we weren't launching the perfume."

Maryam Kubasek, spokeswoman for the children's advocacy group, said she's not buying that explanation.

"Some would consider it ironic to pull a holiday catalog in the middle of the biggest shopping time," Kubasek told CNN/Money. "We're not going to get into a pissing match with them over what they're saying. The fact is Abercrombie is not backing away from its marketing strategy of promoting sexual promiscuity. So we will continue with our protests until that policy change."

Kubasek said the group is asking parents to boycott Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF: Research, Estimates) stores, register complaints against the chain on its Web site, or call the company directly.

The A&F quarterly -- which costs $7 an issue, or $16 for a year-long subscription for its spring, summer, back-to-school and holiday issues -- has drawn the ire of politicians and children's advocacy groups, who consider it obscene and not appropriate for young people.

Critics say pictures such as this from the holiday catalog promote sexual promiscuity.  
Critics say pictures such as this from the holiday catalog promote sexual promiscuity.

Meanwhile, the 2003 holiday quarterly was soliciting bids up to $48 on eBay (EBAY: Research, Estimates) Tuesday afternoon.

The bulky "magalog" includes nude "teenage-looking" models in highly suggestive poses. And there are articles on sex. Such elements are intended to boost the clothing retailer's brand among college-age customers.

Abercrombie maintains that it has the appropriate checks in place to ensure that the quarterly is sold only to adult customers.

"All the models are 18 and over and customers have to be 18 and over in order to purchase the issues," Carney said. Abercrombie circulates about 200,000 copies per issue, with in-store sales accounting for half of that number. The New Albany, Ohio-based company runs more than 650 of its namesake stores across the country.

"Our spring quarterly will be back in stores mid-January and everyone will see that there's no change in our editorial policy," Carney said. "We will still have butts and partial nudity."

Controversy and Abercrombie & Fitch are no strangers. The company has drawn fire from various groups in the past, not only for its advertising but also its products. A T-shirt depicting a Chinese laundry emblazoned with "Two Wongs can make it White" angered Asian-American groups. A line of thong panties for girls, emblazoned with "Wink, Wink" and "Eye Candy," drew criticism from parents' groups as well.  Top of page

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