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Abercrombie & Fitch Co. brand
RUEHL No.925
ModernRUEHLadvertisinglogo.png
Type Subsidiary
Establishment September 24, 2004 - January 2010
Headquarters Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
6301 Fitch Path
New Albany, Ohio 43054
Key people Michael S. Jeffries, Chairman & CEO
Bruce Weber, photographer
John Urbano, marketing film director
Theme Greenwich Village
Color scheme Burgundy Red & Blue
Target consumer age 22 through 35[1]
Apparel style Upscale, Modern Business casual and Trend Fashion
Abbrev. R925 / R / 925 / RNY
Logo French Bulldog, Trubble
Store locations  United States 29 [2]
Revenue $50.2 million USD (2007)[3][4]
Website www.RUEHL.com

Ruehl No.925 (marketed as "RUEHL No.925"[5]), or simply Ruehl (pronounced /ˈruːl/, us dict: rōōl′), was an upscale American lifestyle brand by Abercrombie & Fitch Co. The concept was inspired by the artistic and cultural heritage of New York City's Greenwich Village and was meant to attract post-graduate individuals aged 22 through 35,[1] retaining consumer basis past collegiate consumers for the A&F company.[5] Ruehl sold high-grade casual apparel, leather goods, and lifestyle accessories through its stores and web site ruehl.com.

Citing the current economic environment, in June 2009, Abercrombie & Fitch announced it would close all Ruehl locations by January 2010.[6]

Contents

History

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Fictional background

A fictional Ruehl family was invented by Abercrombie & Fitch to help tie together the elements of the Ruehl brand.[7] Abercrombie & Fitch publicity material presents them as a family of German immigrants who started a leathergoods shop at the nonexistent address of 925 Greenwich Street in Greenwich Village. There exist no building numbers past the 800s on Greenwich Street and there are no records of an established Ruehl family in the Village.[7] There is nothing very German about the name, in the same sense that sister brand Gilly Hicks is not Australian, although both claim to have roots to those cultures. The name "Ruehl" is a variation of the German last name "Ruhl."[8]

Development

The first prototype logo before revision.

CEO and Chairman of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, stated that Ruehl took years of planning, mainly for the store's atmosphere and image. From the start, the Company (A&F) was determined to keep their new brand concept veiled from public eyes.[9] Retail analysts viewed this as peculiar.[10] Not even retail landlords approached for space were told about the concept. John C. Shroder (COO of Westfield San Francisco Centre's U.S. operations) confessed that it was A&F's reputation which gave him the confidence to "sign up Ruehl sight-unseen."

Despite the secretive nature, rumors circulated about a "distinct departure" from the A&F style.[10] It was evident that A&F sought to maintain consumers past ages 18 through 22.[10] The concept was to venture out as more mature and sophisticated, all the while keeping it youthful.[10] The brand was privately unveiled to investors-only on "Investor Day" September 7, 2004.[10] The presentation was at Westfield Garden State Plaza in New Jersey.[10] At the introduction and press tour of the Westfield Garden State Plaza location, Jeffries noted that Ruehl is "the fantasy of what it's like to graduate from college and go to New York and make it. It's the New York fantasy."[11] He repeatedly referred to Ruehl as "the movie" because of its elaborate, flowing background.[11]

Launch

Ruehl No.925 finally opened on September 24, 2004 with three locations. These were at Westfield Garden State Plaza (New Jersey), Woodfield Mall (Illinois), and the International Plaza (Florida). Designed to look and feel like Greenwich Village, Ruehl presented a new, "more sophisticated" lifestyle than other Abercrombie & Fitch brands. The store prototype of this time was a two-floor prototype measuring at 9,500 sq ft (880 m2).[12] Due to its structural form and size, locations capable of housing the prototype became hard to acquire.[12]

Mike Jeffries did not launch an online store upon the opening of Ruehl. He wanted to attract customers to the stores to experience the Ruehl atmosphere.[13] What was launched was a promotional website which gave store listings, previewed the private online policy, and allowed for email subscription to receive news on Ruehl.

Original prices upon opening were roughly 30% higher than at Abercrombie & Fitch (e.g. destroyed blue jeans $148.00 USD[7]). Many consumers deemed this as too high for young professionals who normally begin their careers at fair incomes.[9]

Post-opening

The original ruehl.com

In June 2005, writer Alex Kuczynski published an article in The New York Times about her experience in the store at Westfield Garden State Plaza. She described the facade as "something provocative and different," and compared the store greeter to a "nightclub bouncer on the watch for good-looking customers." Kuczynski wrote that the store name conjures up actress Mercedes Ruehl and her hapless roles; "try as it might, the name just doesn't sound cool." She also criticized the lighting techniques, saying that "people at that age [20's and 30's] aspiring to the heights of sangfroid that Ruehl appears to promote would never deign to exert effort to find the right size, let alone spend 10 minutes squinting at a skirt to discern its color", a shame because "the clothing is worth the time and the money." She said prices were "reasonable", giving as an example $158 for the best-selling "destroyed" blue jeans.[7]

The advertisement for the launch of the online store.

In early 2007, RUEHL925.com became RUEHL.com and was upgraded as an Adobe Flash Player page. Also, to accommodate expansion, a new store prototype was developed measuring at 7,200 sq ft (670 m2). This new prototype encompasses one sales level only, reducing construction costs and increasing opportunities to secure prime locations.[12] A limited online store was finally launched on October 25, 2007.[5] It sold fragrances and handbags in a limited quantity of styles. By the end of the year, in an effort to retain consumer basis, price points for Ruehl clothing were significantly lowered as so to create a minimal 10-15% difference between Abercrombie & Fitch and Ruehl No.925 clothing. A&F rose its jeans prices to make a $10 USD difference between its jeans and Ruehl's. January 30, 2008 marked the launch of the full online store.

Store closures

On June 17, 2009, Abercrombie & Fitch announced it would close all 29 Ruehl stores by the end of the fiscal year (January 2010).[6].

Mike Jeffries, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., said:

It has been a difficult decision to close Ruehl, a brand we continue to believe could have been successful in different circumstances. However, given the current economic environment, we believe it is in the best interests of the Company to focus its efforts and resources on the growth opportunities afforded by our other brands, particularly internationally. While I am disappointed with the ultimate outcome, I am grateful for the effort and commitment the Ruehl team has shown in developing and positioning that brand in the marketplace. In particular, the recent strides made in differentiating and elevating the Ruehl assortment make this an especially difficult decision. However, all of our brands will benefit from our experience and lessons learned with Ruehl.[6]

Marketing and its resulting performance

Ruehl marketing photography has a blue color scheme and is more sophisticated than Abercrombie & Fitch. Noticeably, some imagery uses angles of Greenwich Village as a backdrop. Jeffries made it clear that sex in marketing was a continual importance in Ruehl advertising.[11] For that reason, Bruce Weber shot all campaigns. He is most noted for his provocative and sexual, beefcake work with Calvin Klein underwear and A&F. Photography from Ruehl's early days evolved from sepia and dark green color schemes before settling on blue. High-profile models have appeared in Ruehl marketing campaigns, including Miranda Kerr and Kim Stolz.[14]

The brand has used the appropriate slogan, "Visit us in the Village." Its main marketing logo "Ruehl / No.925 / Greenwich Street / New York" has been revised and replaced with "Ruehl / No.925 / Greenwich St / New York, NY". It mimics as an actual address.

Marketing techniques used on Ruehl have not benefited revenue expectations for the brand. The average store generated sales of over $3.2 million USD in 2006.[12] In comparison to Hollister's outstanding popularity and sales by 2004 (four years after its opening), revenue from Ruehl by 2008 has not been satisfying.

Ruehl branding and merchandise

The logo: Trubble

Trubble embroidered
A Ruehl men's polo featuring Trubble.

The official logo for Ruehl No.925 is the French bulldog Trubble. He is the little "inquisitive" bulldog with a "steadfast demeanor" and "confident attitude" who walked into the Ruehl family shop in the mid-1850s - so states the fictional background to Ruehl.[13] He was, as the fake literature continues, the family's first customer (to their surprise and delight). Subsequently, Trubble became the logo for the brand.

His name, "Trubble", is a play on the word "trouble." It signifies the trouble that Mike Jeffries and his development team underwent to create an appealing logo for Ruehl. Before deciding on Trubble, the company experimented with different designs on polos. The logos included: "R925"; an artistically cursive "R"; and "Ruehl / No.925". The bulldog from the Ruehl background was finally selected and named "Trubble" - a sort of counterpart to the Abercrombie moose, the flying Hollister Co. seagull, and the Gilly Hicks Koala. Trubble was embroidered on polos and silk-screened on other merchandise.

Merchandise

Merchandise cycled in stores weekly and there were four main seasonal clothing rollouts: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Christmas seasons. In efforts to entice consumers, books, music, newspapers, and fresh flowers were also on sale.[9] Merchandise was made only available in Ruehl stores and at ruehl.com.[15]

The sophisticated Ezra Fitch Collection by Abercrombie & Fitch, released in 2004 and discontinued in 2006, shared similarity to Ruehl clothing.

Apparel

Ruehl No.925 clothing is more sophisticated than of what is expected at college-inspired Abercrombie & Fitch.[7] It has been described as "edgier versions of Polo Ralph Lauren and J.Crew".[9] Some Ruehl fashions could very well be "office-appropriate".[11] Mike Jeffries however calls Ruehl "100% casual."[11] The price points at Ruehl was the highest in the family of Abercrombie & Fitch brands. This fact remained even after the drop in original price points. Nicknamed "A&F + $10" by original customers, there lingered a feel that the brand had been degraded from its high-end image by the drop in prices.

Clothing articles encompasses of tops (i.e. tees, shirts), bottoms (i.e. jeans, shorts), swim wear, accessories (i.e. flip flops, handbags), and underwear (men's only).[16] Lace-and-velvet trimmed Lingerie and sleepwear were also previously offered to women (discontinued because of the Gilly Hicks brand).[7][11] Materials used for Ruehl apparel are of a much higher-grade (using heavier denim, cashmere for sweaters, and embossed leather) than in other A&F brands.[9] Overall, Jeffries wants Ruehl to be positioned as a "jeans expert", with RNY jeans dominating the assortment of apparel.[11] Inside all jeans is the embroidery: Ruehl New York 10014 (the New York City zip code).[16]

Fragrance and leather goods

For its fragrance collection, Ruehl carried Signature (both cologne and perfume). Signature cologne was the representing scent of the brand and was sprayed at intervals throughout the day in-store.[16] R-4 perfume and R-7 cologne were dropped from retail October 2009.

Ruehl became the first in the chain of Abercrombie & Fitch brands to produce a genuine leather goods line for both men and women. Because of low purchasing rates, men's leather goods were discontinued (e.g. wallets and messenger bags). Women's bags, however, remained quite popular. Purse prices were at level with Coach prices for competition.[11] However, some Ruehl purses have reached the amount of $898 USD.[11] Celebrity patrons of Ruehl who enjoy the bags include Ali Larter, Katherine Heigl, Minka Kelly, and Vanessa Hudgens.[17]

Ruehl Books

Ruehl No.925, in collaboration with its photographer Bruce Weber, produced what are called "Ruehl books." These are limited edition photography books. They encompass of photography inspired by the artistic and cultural heritage of Greenwich Village. The publications are similar to A&F Quarterly, a racy magalog also produced by Weber.

Stores

The entrance of No.925.
Ruehl storefront at Westfield Garden State Plaza.
The floor layout
A typical Ruehl No.925 was structured as three, two-floored or single floored brownstones.[13] Artificial windows contained flower boxes, and a black awning on the 3rd facade read "RUEHL." Surrounding the facades were wrought iron fences. Resembling a home off of Greenwich Street, concrete walkways lined in front of the store, leading to the two entrances. Inside, the store was walled off into about more than ten rooms. Entering the main entrance, one entered the leather shop which contained high shelves of leather hand bags before treading down a large corridor, the gallery, which divided the men and women departments. The flooring was of dark wood. To emphasize a Greenwich home, the women's side of the store contained the rooms of a normal home. This included a family room surrounded by couches and chairs with Ruehl merchandise displayed. There was also a dimly-lit bedroom which could be led to the back of the women's side of the store containing one more room known as the mud room. The mud room was filled with women's apparel with a crystal chandelier hanging low from the ceiling. The men's side of the store contained a large room holding Ruehl denim across the wall. This room was located on the first floor and could be overseen from a bedroom containing a balcony. The men's side of the store had the secondary rooms of a Greenwich home. Men's merchandise were located in three bedrooms and overflowed into the Garage.[11] At the end of the hallway separating the women's and men's side, was a divan surrounded with books and modern art - the room was known as the conservatory[13]. Art and marketing photography were displayed as if in an art gallery. Merchandise was found on actual bookshelves and tables and highlighted with spot lighting and lamps. Located in the back corner of the store was the cashwrap, also known as the Garage, and was designed to have brick walls, dim/flickering lighting, and windows to represent the outside using intelligent lighting techniques. CDs were available for purchase [11] and some stores had a burning fireplace.[13]
The atmosphere
The atmosphere was to make the shopper feel in a unique place, a "private home."[18] The music mixed for the brand attempted to employ soft modern lounge/Downtempo tunes with jazzy beats to personify the jazz-influenced musical heritage of the Village. The modern art displayed instore was nostalgic to modern artists living in the early-20th century Village. The dim lighting projected an upscale image,[7] and so did the lingering opulent scent of Signature. In A&F's words, "The classic décor and opulent ambience create a luxurious lifestyle inside this romantically lit West Village brownstone."[19]

Criticism

Kevin Ramstack (division manager of the Westfield Garden State Plaza store) revealed that new customers become overwhelmed over the number of rooms, "At first, they're shocked."[9] The lack of typical mall windows also mislead shoppers' view of the brand.[20] A 50-year-old-man (interviewed by the New York Times) who walked into a Ruehl brownstone found himself in what he called "the wrong place" among "skimply dressed teenagers and stacks of tee-shirts that read Friday is casual sex day ."[20] He later confessed that the problem was "you really had to guess what it was until you got in." Quite on the contrary, a 17-year-old and her friend stated that they enjoyed the experience of the brand and that "instead of being in the middle of New Jersey, we are on a street in New York, and that is where we want to be anyway -- living in New York City."[20]

Many retail executives disagree with the idea of no mall windows.[20] Some agree that stores similar to Ruehl (like Martin + Osa) with original and provocative storefronts attract curiosity to themselves against other mall merchants, and, thus, aid themselves economically. However, others contradict by stating that brands with storefronts as such are merely "shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to new customers who are so critical to a brand's success."[20] However, with concern to Ruehl, Andrew McQuilkin (vice president of design at FRCH Design Worldwide) settles that "they [the storefronts] are sending a message early in the conversation [between consumer and store] that says you belong or you don't belong...The 17-year-old who wants to live in New York belongs. The 50-year-old suburban dad does not."[20] Also, Kurt Barnard (president of Barnards Retail Consulting Group) stated that "the risk-taking behind Ruehl is not only a smart idea, it totally falls in line with the massive transformation of retail. Newness is needed. Abercrombie may have a hit upon a way to hold onto existing customers as they exit their teens."[9]

Locations

Ruehl operated twenty-nine mall stores, one accessories store, and one outlet store. Locations included California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. Mall locations took up the store prototypes set up by corporate. The 600 sq ft (56 m2)[21] accessories store was different, however, in that it only sold accessories, including handcrafted leather merchandise.[21] It was located in West Village, New York City, New York at 370 Bleecker Street (on Bleecker between Charles and Perry).[5]

Levi Strauss lawsuit

Levi Strauss & Co. filed a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch in July 2007 for trademark infringement, alleging that Ruehl jeans and other products used Levi's trademarked pocket design of connected arches. A similar suit was filed against Polo Ralph Lauren.[22]

References

  1. ^ a b "Four Iconic Businesses: One "BRAND"" (PDF). http://library.corporate-ir.net/library/61/617/61701/items/249197/Piper_June_2007.pdf. Retrieved 2008-02-09.  
  2. ^ http://library.corporate-ir.net/library/61/617/61701/items/282722/Monthly_Store_Count_History_0508.pdf
  3. ^ Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) 10-K 2007, "Financial Summary", p. 34
  4. ^ Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) First Quarter Earnings Release 2008
  5. ^ a b c d "Ruehl announces the launch of e-commerce website.". Abercrombie & Fitch Co.. http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=61701&p=irol-newsArticle_print&ID=1068835&highlight=. Retrieved 2007-11-22.  
  6. ^ a b c Abercrombie & Fitch to Close Ruehl Operations; Company Amends Credit Agreement
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "A Dark, Secuded Place". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/07/fashion/thursdaystyles/07CRITIC.html. Retrieved 2008-02-06.  
  8. ^ Ruehl Name Meaning and Origin - Ancestry.com
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Hazel, Debra. "Abercrombie's Ruehl No.925 makes customers feel at home". ICSC. http://www.icsc.org/srch/sct/sct0205/retailing_3.php. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  10. ^ a b c d e f Bhatnagar, Parija. "Abercrombie looking to 'RUEHL': Teen retailer is gearing up to launch new, more grown-up clothing line early next month". http://money.cnn.com/2004/08/26/news/midcaps/abercrombie_ruehl/index.htm. Retrieved January 5, 2008.  
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Scardino, Emily. "RUEHL: A&F's Hip New Retail Concept". http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FNP/is_18_43/ai_n6212855. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  12. ^ a b c d "RUEHL: Improving four-wall performance" (PDF). Abercrombie & Fitch Co.. http://library.corporate-ir.net/library/61/617/61701/items/249197/Piper_June_2007.pdf. Retrieved 2007-01-26.  
  13. ^ a b c d e "History of Ruehl and reason behind its image, as told by an associate (includes interior images)". Topic Style. http://www.topicstyle.com/showthread.php?t=3856/. Retrieved 2007-11-22.  
  14. ^ http://www.all-antm.net/thumbnails.php?album=202
  15. ^ "FAQ". Abercrombie & Fitch Co.. http://www.abercrombie.com/anf/lifestyles/html/investorrelations.html. Retrieved 2007-11-22.  
  16. ^ a b c "Ruehl No.925 (official website)". Abercrombie & Fitch. http://www.ruehl.com. Retrieved November 2007.  
  17. ^ "Annabelle from RUEHL". http://www.styledash.com/2008/03/07/ruehl-no-925-you-need-this-handbag/. Retrieved 08-07-2008.  
  18. ^ Betts, Kate. "Home Shopping". http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,995257,00.html. Retrieved January 5, 2008.  
  19. ^ A&F Careers / Brands / Ruehl 925
  20. ^ a b c d e f "It's hard to Window Shop Without the Windows". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/01/realestate/01storefronts.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Ruehl+No.925&st=nyt&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  21. ^ a b "Ruehl Roots in Greenwich Village. (Abercrombie & Fitch concept)". Daily News Record. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4298/is_200511/ai_n18988774. Retrieved 2008-03-15.  
  22. ^ "Levi's says Abercrombie pick pocketed design (Denim maker files another lawsuit, this time against teen clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, over theft of its trademarked back-pocket design)". http://money.cnn.com/2007/07/26/news/companies/levis_lawsuit/index.htm. Retrieved June 22, 2009.  

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