Wednesday, January 5


During my holiday shopping frenzy in NYC this year, I had an experience that has me still scratching my head. I was walking down Broadway and spied out of the corner of my little eye what looked to be Abercrombie & Fitch. The store front was pretty telegraphic ... snow covered evergreens, mannequins in jeans and big sweaters, sweatshirts with big logos on it. I popped in to buy some things for my teenagers.

You know the urban legend, right? No one over 3o can wear Abercrombie & Fitch ... so I was shopping for my two teenagers ;)

Inside, I immediately noticed a disconnect. Yes, there were more snow covered trees but many of them had surfboards next to them. And instead of scantily-clad models, there were bears. Bears on surfboards with snow on them.

I kept looking and came to the conclusion that this must be a NEW store from Abercrombie & Fitch (which is a really old brand from the late 1800's!). It would make sense since a few years ago they launched their sister brand Hollister .. keeping Abercrombie & Fitch about the Adirondack-inspired college lifestyle and Hollister about the California-inspired college lifestyle. One brand gets snow and mountains and the other gets the ocean and surfboards. Never the twain shall meet.

But clearly in this store they did. Bears on surfboards with snow on them. Turns out that it's not from Abercrombie at all ... the store is called Who.A.U -- California Dream. Founded in 1849. How could I have never heard of it?

Did a little research .... Who.A.U is text-ing for "Who Are You"? 1849 was the year of the California Goldrush, hence the California Dream part and the year "founded". A Korean company decided to enter the US market with products that teenagers desire.

Clearly this was a new brand trying to capitalize on the equity of Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, but I guess not knowing which one was better. Instead of choosing or creating a new one, they merged them, copied them.

Hmmm ... something really bothers me about this. I don' t like when one brand copies another, especially so blatantly. It's like private label products that mimic the market leader. I don't like it. Create your own brand!

I also distinctly got the feeling that this company didn't quite get it. They knew that they wanted to borrow equity, but they didn't know what they were really borrowing or what to do with it.

Who.A.U - exactly.

What's your experience? Jim.


  1. I agree- that's a nutty experience.

    However, I see some amazing things going on in the world of private label. At Toys R Us, at A&P, etc. ..I feel marketers like this are changing what "private label" means.

  2. True enough, Ed. "Private Label" has many interpretations, new school. Jim