Did Boycott Fears Force A&F Quarterly Off Shelves?

One thing is for sure: Abercrombie & Fitch has taken its racy holiday magalog off store shelves. The question is why.

News reports yesterday quoted A&F spokesman Hampton Carney as saying it was because the company launched a new perfume called NOW and “we had to make space on the counter for the product.”

However, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families said the retailer pulled the “Christmas Field Guide” magalog over threats of a boycott. This holiday's issue included advice on oral sex and group sex.

National Review reported yesterday that an A&F employee at the company's New Albany, OH, headquarters named “Brennan” said the company was receiving more than 300 calls an hour from people saying they would boycott company stores until it stopped selling the magalog. The New York Post reported yesterday that employees at the A&F store in White Plains, NY, were “instructed to rip off the covers of the catalogs so they could never be sold.”

“Abercrombie & Fitch can't seem to decide what its 'party line' will be,” Focus on the Family founder/chairman James Dobson said in a statement yesterday. “Some representatives admit they have been overwhelmed by negative calls and e-mails from outraged parents. Others … claim the spring and fall catalogs will be as 'sexy and exciting as ever.' Either way, we urge parents to continue expressing their irritation. No company that enhances its profits by marketing sleaze to the young deserves our patronage.”

Carney said the holiday issue was distributed earlier than normal and was in its 651 stores for the usual time period.

“Honestly, we would have kept this issue in stores longer if we weren't launching the perfume,” he told CNN/Money. “Our spring quarterly will be back in stores in mid-January, and everyone will see that there's no change in our editorial policy. We will still have butts and partial nudity.”

A&F's magalog has been under scrutiny for years because of its pictures of nearly nude models in suggestive poses. The retailer began limiting purchase of the magalog to those 18 or older after Michigan's attorney general filed a complaint in 1999, which was prompted by the purchase of the publication in one of its stores by a 10-year-old.

Those who buy single issues of A&F Quarterly, as well as subscribers, must show ID. Subscriptions are available only in stores, and issues are shrink-wrapped and marked with a label warning about the adult content. Begun in fall 1997, the magalog publishes four times a year: spring break, summer, back-to-school and Christmas. It is sold in the company's stores for $7 an issue or $16 for a one-year subscription.

In 2001, the company briefly suspended publication of the magalog because its content and tone were inappropriate after 9/11.

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