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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An A&F Guy in Dublin! | Abercrombie & Fitch Dublin Press Preview Event...

The opulent interior of A&F Dublin as seen during the Press Preview Event!
Image courtesy of Abercrombie & Fitch Public Relations.
Hi! I'm Patrick and I'm covering the Dublin opening of Abercrombie & Fitch.

On the afternoon of October 30, I joined a small select small group of journalists and press invited by Abercrombie & Fitch to preview their new Dublin Store in what they called the Press Preview Event.

Abercrombie & Fitch is rumoured to be paying rent of up to €750,000 ($972,000) per annum for its premium building on Dublin’s College Green. The building has been sitting idle for many years now...in a previous life being a Habitat Store, and before that a Bank. When Habitat withdrew from Ireland, there was much talk about whom would take over the building. The usual companies like Abercrombie to Apple were hyped, but it took another 5 years or so before Abercrombie announced their intentions. By this stage, the building had been subdivided: one half going to Cult, which operate a Superdry Store onto Suffolk Street, and with Abercrombie taking the other half facing College Green.

My exclusive press pass.
For months the building was covered in the iconic A&F torso banner; it had to be removed a few weeks earlier, in late-September, due to planning permission issues. What was going on behind that banner? The October 30th Press Preview Event would reveal all. The store was once held in flagship status, but has since been demoted to Tier 1, with flagship trimmings, so I was eager to find out what this meant and how it would compare to other “real” flagship stores.

I arrived just before 2PM expecting to walk right in for the event, but noticed a line forming separate to the “hot guys” line. Yes those “hot guys” as Abercrombie calls them are the models flown in for the launch. In total 50 of them. They’ve been taking shifts in standing outside the store since Friday and are causing a right stir. It’s half term week in Ireland and every school girl and “mammy” appears to be making it their mission to get into the city for a photo with these lads. After checking in with the local PR company running the launch, I was handed my visitors badge and awaited further instructions.

Outside the store, we were introduced to the US PR/Marketing team who are calling the shots today and briefed that no photos could be taken inside. Whilst this is a media event, there wouldn’t be any formal Q&A, but questions could be directed to any of the PR/Marketing team present. With that one of the doors opened slightly and we were ushered in quickly to avoid bringing any extra attention to our activities.

Like any Abercrombie & Fitch, the porch/entrance area is home to the half naked greater and today I was greeted by none other than Sitch on Fitch favourite Chris Evans...






After a picture or two I started my exploration. The backdrop to the porch/entrance area is a massive mural depicting a typical old fashioned sporting event. It must be at least 8 foot high. The massive windows to the front of the store had blinds drawn down to keep the light out. I’ve seen other materials used before, but the careful decision to use blinds works well.

It’s men’s to the right and womens to the left, both take you into the second area of the store, the lounge area as I like to call it. In the centre are four leather sofas with a massive glass chandelier overhead. It’s double height ceilings so there are no chances of feeling claustrophobic. Glass displays flank three sides, each with select t-shirts and bottles of fragrances to try. Behind the glass counters were floor to ceiling displays of brightly coloured clothing, all folded up neatly with perfect spot lighting bringing out their colour.

There are a lot of enthusiastic staff manning each display whilst floor models danced in time with the pumping club soundtrack you’ve come to expect. The music being played is from their Winter/Christmas collection, but unlike other years doesn’t feature any of the classic Abercrombie festive favourites. Nevertheless, this soundtrack to the shopping experience worked just fine for me.

Leaving this section I moved into the third area of the store: mens to the right, womens to the left, again with a massive central area but this one containing the iconic flagship statue of a chiseled male and overhead a dome unique to Dublin. Triple height ceilings are found here; it’s very spacious and the view from the central area, past the statue to the the dome overhead, is breathtaking. Dark gray columns break up the space along with 9 foot+ tall mirrors. I’ve never seen so many mirrors in an Abercrombie store before.

The lighting, whilst low, could be dimmed some more as Dublin, unlike other stores, is actually not as dark. In fact I felt some parts of the central dome area were over-lit, perhaps due the openness combined with the tall mirrors. I’m sure they will fine tune this in advance of the public opening on Thursday.

They’ve done a great job in filling the space with their signature FIERCE fragrance. I will never tire of it and took many opportunities to top up the scent on both my skin and clothing. However, in some parts, particularly around the changing areas, the smell of newly finished building work was still present. The changing rooms are small, only four on each side. But they are well lit and include backlighting behind the mirrors in each cubicle. It’s standing only in there as there aren’t any chairs inside the cubicles or outside the changing area.

Moving to the back of the store in the center, you have the registers. Space is tight here and I might be concerned about crowd control around their lines. Abercrombie's sibling store in Dublin, Hollister Co, is well known for having longer lines for the registers then the changing rooms. I’ve once spent 45 minutes waiting to pay there on a week day.

By now you might be asking what about the other levels. There are no other levels. This is the first Abercrombie & Fitch international store I’ve visited to be finished on one level. I did ask if this was intentional, or a downside of being demoted to tier 1 status, to which I was told it was intentional. The store size has been designed to keep the flow and movement of people tight and controlled without feeling too small or big. Dublin has a population of around 1 million so footfall past and through those doors will not be as great as other cities. So perhaps the layout and size will work. They do have space on the two levels above, but they are being used for storage. I can only wonder if flagship status had been retaining if another level would have been introduced or explored. Yes it would have cost more to fit, but the height and room is there and that sense of greater exploration is something missing from the store.

For years now, Irish teens and older fans have been wearing Abercrombie & Fitch clothing imported from America or the UK. Personally I travel to New York each and every November on my A&F 5th Avenue Flagship pilgrimage. The prices here in Dublin are quite high compared to America. In fact they’ve done “an Apple” and swapped the $ for a € on most items. But it’s on colognes you see the biggest mark up. A 200ml bottle of FIERCE retails for US$98 in America, whilst here in Dublin it’s EUR€120 (US$156), some 52% more expensive. That said, you are getting the full Abercrombie experience closer to home, they are hiring local staff, and they are paying local rents, so prices will be high here.

I’ve touched on the atmosphere of the store, and really it’s top quality. The staff, all young and mostly Irish, all seemed excited to see people in their store which up until now had been off limits to outsiders. They had been taught the Abercrombie customer service techniques and greeted me with “hey what’s up?” at every moment. Some people will not take to this level of attention, others will just play along in their best Irish-American accent. The air smells FIERCE, the lighting is nicely-dim. The music is pumping and everyone is smiling. All that is missing is the bar and you’ve got the makings of a perfect Saturday night, but seven days a week, on College Green.

Abercrombie & Fitch opens it’s doors and let’s it’s fragrance-filled-air out for real on Thursday, November 1st at 11AM. Expect lines and expect lots of “hot guys” with abs and smiles. The store is bound to be a massive success given it’s location in the middle of Dublin City Centre - a position right in our shopping and college districts. It will be open 7 days a week. I can’t wait!

Thanks to Abercrombie & Fitch PR/Marketing for extending the invitation for this event to myself to cover for The Sitch on Fitch...

Patrick


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