Born: Darien, Conn., 1942.
Home: Northwest Washington, D.C.
Profession: Corporation attorney.
Most memorable experience: Landing a 30-pound salmon off the coast of Nova Scotia during a Maine to Newfoundland regatta.
Last book read: "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way," a biography of businessman/sailor Ted Turner.
Favorite quote: Ernest Hemingway's definition of guts from the New Yorker magazine, November, 1929, as "grace under pressure."
Dream: To be the first civilian to pilot the space shuttle.
Scotch: Gave it up for Perrier.
Sporting goods store: Abercrombie & Fitch.
The person who fits this profile, or who at least aspires to it, may be interested in knowing that Abercrombie & Fitch, the legendary sporting goods outfitters that counted Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Greta Garbo and assorted titled personages among its customers before declaring bankruptcy in 1976, is launching a national comeback under new ownership and is opening a store in Georgetown Park.
In Washington to oversee the finishing touches to this small-scale "best of Abercrombie" store, company president J. L. Nanna described Abercrombie's typical customer as an "affluent, activist, ego-intensive person who lives a sporting life." And frankly, Nanna said, that customer can't really afford to shop at Abercrombie's until at least age 35.
"We don't have a young customer. The average is 35 to 55 years. We're not a young store," he said.
This is the person who might be expected to buy an "ergometer," or exercise bicycle, complete with a television and video tape recorder, an AM-FM radio, a pulse-taker, and a computer that can be programmed to count calories burned and to calculate the exercise of the user's "aerobic target zones." Or an "in-home" rowing machine. Or a $1,200 croquet set. Or one of the store's willow picnic baskets, made in England and ranging in price from $150 to $250.
"Today, the affluent, activist customer is into physical fitness," Nanna said. "And if that's the trend line, we'll be on it."
Abercrombie's traces its lineage to its first store on Madison Avenue, which was founded in 1892 and later became known as "the greatest sporting goods store in the world." Aside from its clientele, the flagship store was known for its eccentric merchandising techniques, such as sending employes on safari to reach customers who needed their service; serving cocktails to a gold-toothed bulldog and its owner, who had been sent to the store by former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to purchase some pack saddles; and attempting to launch a transatlantic balloon flight from its roof (the balloon ripped).
Over the years, Abercrombie's expanded by opening stores in exclusive suburbs springing up around the country, and the store's "state of the art" merchandising began to give way to mass market appeal. When Abercrombie's declared bankruptcy in 1976, retail analysts attributed its decline to an indecisiveness within the company's management as to who--and how wealthy--its customers were.
In 1977, the rights to the name Abercrombie & Fitch and its house charge account list were purchased for $1.5 million by Oshman's, a sporting goods company based in Houston.
Since then, "full-line" stores have been opened in Beverly Hills, Calif., and Dallas, and there are plans to open one in Houston and another in Atlanta this year. Two "best of Abercrombie's," like the Georgetown store, are in operation in Las Vegas and Costa Mesa, Calif. Four more of these "edited" stores are scheduled to open this year, in Los Angeles, Stamford, Conn., Short Hills, N.J., and Philadelphia.
Some of the traditional Abercrombie's merchandise is still being sold in these stores of the '80s, such as Beefeater steak knives, clothes made from the trademarked "safari cloth," pistol sets and shotguns inlaid with gold, the original Abercrombie's pith helmets, and the "60-second razor." But the store's traditional merchandising philosophy continues to be stretched with the inclusion of women's apparel and various gift items.
"We will always have the country club set, whether it's the nouveau riche or the established set," Nanna said. "We've looked at what Abercrombie did in the past and used that as a base. We look at the market now, and tailor our merchandise to that taste level. We may have someone walk in and say 'This isn't like the old Abercrombie's,' but I'm not paranoid about that. We're getting acceptance now on what we call our 'tasty' merchandise."