Spring is here at last! I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like seeing my heavy sweaters, jackets, and dark colored clothing for a very long time. As long as we’re ditching over worn clothing for a new perspective, we can get rid of a few clothing company CEOs that are worn out as well. Lululemon and Abercrombie & Fitch have recently reported lower quarterly profits, leading to bad news on the stock market. All tied to the comments of their respective CEOs. To add more fuel to the fire, A&F’s sister brand, Hollister, got in trouble in March for having posting a photo of one of their models with extremely thin thighs. After posting the photo on Twitter, many twitters took to the Hollister account to complain. This photo mirrors the controversial comments of their CEO, which I’ll get to later. Although Target isn’t strictly a clothing company, they also get in trouble last month for having a model in a bathing suit with a clearly Photoshopped thigh gap. I realize that average person reading this assumes that most of us are smart enough not; (1) to say discriminatory comments in public forums; (2) to offer a biased opinion as justification for selling poorly made products; and (3) to use Photoshop to promote an unrealistic beauty standard. Why should a small business owner or a local artist consider these recent events? Answer: because once you have alienated customers or fans, they will take their dollars elsewhere. The old-fashioned problem of an offended customer has entered the social media age where one can add a bad review to a company listing or create a critical anti-website. Every business, artist, and musician caters to a target demographic and lifestyle. However, just because you go after your specific demographic, that doesn’t mean that you should discourage others. Don’t think of this as the standard diversity human resources vomiting rainbows lecture, think of this as a way to improve your business bottom line. Let’s start with the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jefferies, who said in an interview several years ago, which recently came to light, that A&F’s clothing exclusively caters to cool kids, and that A&F brands hire attractive people to work in their stores to influence attractive people to shop there. (https://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/in-defense-of-abercrombie—fitch-mike-jeffries-183806454.html) There is also Chip Wilson, founder and former CEO of Lululemon, who said that the reason why their brand of yoga pants are too shear is certain women’s body types weren’t meant for the pants. (http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/10/business/la-fi-mo-lululemon-chip-wilson-ceo-20131210 )I realize that at some of the clothing stores I shop at I am not the in their business’s typical demographic or image. I’m not preppy, Goth, or look like a supermodel. However, I still shop at those places knowing that I feel welcomed, because I usually have friendly store associates that greet me and are very helpful. Friendly or unfriendly associates I think can make or break a place of business. You can notice this just watching one episode of “Undercover Boss”. In addition, these places don’t exclude someone like me. The store environment is friendly welcoming and even though has a specific demographic, has enough variety in their merchandise that I can find something I like. If you have a small business do, you must offer variety in the services and/or products that you provide. If you are a musician, do you have a diversified repertoire of songs? If the honest answer is no, you may be losing profits to someone who can answer yes. There’s more to just merchandise however, consider store layout. Is it handicap accessible? Elderly friendly? Also, it doesn’t hurt to take the religious and ethnic communities in your community into consideration. There are ways to cater to your demographic, without excluding other ones. One way to cater to your demographic is using a community relations plan, in other words, collaboration with a charity that relates to your brand and your demographics needs. For example, bra company, Aerie, donated proceeds of pink nail polish and bras to Bright Pink, a breast cancer charity, this past October during Breast Cancer Awareness month. As far as age, be well informed regarding issues and trends facing specific demographics. Though being more inclusive may not automatically mean better profits, it does mean better publicity. Abercrombie & Fitch and Lululemon didn’t have to deal with just bad sales, they also had to deal with negative press, which their CEOs had to counter act with public apologies. On a side note, it also cost the CEOs their positions. Wilson stepped down as CEO of Lululemon, while Jefferies stepped down as chair of Abercrombie & Fitch. Although Jefferies’s contract as the CEO of A&F was renewed, it was controversial, especially among investors. A Target spokesperson also had to issue a public apology for their poorly-Photoshopped photo (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/target-photoshop-fail_n_4940819.html). The photo posted on their website had received many negative comments from the blogosphere, which made Target remove the photo. On the other hand, H&M received positive press last year when they used a plus size model on their website to show off their bathing suit collection. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/hm-swimwear-model-feature_n_3185135.html) What I will credit Abercrombie & Fitch, Lululemon, and Target for doing correctly is paying attention and responding to criticism. If foot and mouth happens to your brand, or if you have an unhappy customers on your social media accounts definitely take the time to address it. Also, make sure to check out review websites such as Yelp or Manta, to see what is online for customer reviews about your business. Looking your business up on a search engine can also help you to monitor the conversation. Having good communication with your employees can help prevent bad reviews. In other words, make sure your employees are well versed in store policies. Let them know of any changes immediately. Also, help train them in customer relations. Oftentimes problems can stem from bad organizational communication. When it comes to social media, make sure you use a variety of social media platforms to attract different age groups and users. Some people who are on Twitter may not be on Facebook, and vice versa. Lastly, I can’t stress this enough, be careful what you say on your social media pages. You don’t want a mini Lululemon situation on your hands…

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