BUSINESS

Calling 911 on a big, racy retailer

CATHY GULLI April 14 2008
BUSINESS

Calling 911 on a big, racy retailer

CATHY GULLI April 14 2008

Calling 911 on a big, racy retailer

What do you get when a mega-American clothing retailer revered by teenagers and known for racy ads and dimly lit, cologne-infused stores courts a cash-hungry hospital? If all goes according to plan, the Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency and Trauma Center. But ever since the public company offered to donate US$10 million to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006, there’s been enough controversy that those plans could change. A coalition of physicians, psychologists and parents is arguing that extremely sexual marketing and clothing like that of Abercrombie foster eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression among youth. By association, it argues, the hospital will too.

“These naming rights will entwine an institution of healing with a company whose advertising is notorious for undermining children’s well-being,” stated the website of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. With construction of the emergency unit set to begin this autumn, the organization is encouraging people to send a letter of protest to the hospital’s senior management.

With about 70 doctors (including the past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics) and academics from universities throughout the U.S. already signed up in

opposition, it may seem as though Abercrombie’s chances are shot. But then, Los Angeles has the Mattel Children’s Hospital. And there’s the Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I. Even Columbus has seen this before: just a year ago, the Ohio hospital changed its name from Columbus Children’s Hospital to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Why the switch? Nationwide insurance donated US$50 million to it. The lesson: bid high. M

CATHY GULLI