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Abercrombie Is Finally Over Its Bizarre Obsession With Abs

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In this Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, file photo, Michael S. Jeffries, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, speaks at the annual National Retail Federation conference in New York. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

They've taken the abs out of Abercrombie & Fitch.

In an interview with Bloomberg News published Thursday, the company's CEO Mike Jeffries noted a number of big changes at the struggling retailer: Not only is it doing away with, in Bloomberg's words, the “ubiquitous photos of abs,” the brand is also cutting back on the amount of fragrance spritzed in its stores and even offering clothes in bigger sizes.

There's more: Reversing a long-held and somewhat arbitrary policy, the struggling retailer has started selling clothes in the shade of black -- a color Jeffries reportedly hates so much, he had refused to stock black items or let employees dress in black.

The "customer is changing and we're ready to change with her and him," said the 69-year-old Jeffries, who very rarely grants interviews.

The CEO, who infamously maligned plus-sized people a few years ago, also said the brand is doing away with some of the outsize logos on its clothing and enlisting popular Instagrammers and fashion bloggers in its marketing efforts. Jeffries said he would hand over some power to two soon-to-be named presidents of the Hollister and Abercrombie Kids brands.

So far, a number of Hollister “test stores” have deployed black clothes, brighter colors, quieter music, and less cologne spritzed throughout the space, while certain Abercrombie stores are experimenting with window displays and doing away with the window blinds meant to convey VIP club-like exclusivity.

Abercrombie's sales have fallen off a cliff over the past year and the formerly cool retailer -- known for its razor focus on male models with exceptional abdominals -- is struggling to stay relevant. In February, after announcing a 58 percent drop in profits, the company slashed clothing prices in an effort to compete with popular, inexpensive fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21 and H&M.

Jeffries himself has been a lightning rod for controversy. Last year, he came under fire after comments resurfaced from 2006 when he told Salon he only wanted to market to "cool, good-looking people." Jeffries said at the time: "Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."

In January Jeffries was stripped of his company chairmanship.

"[Abercrombie] was once the aspirational teen retailer, and that's gone," retail analyst Eric Beder told The Huffington Post following the company’s February announcement.

Wondering what Jeffries beef with black is? Here's a statement the company provided to Business Insider:

"We are a casual lifestyle brand and feel black clothing is formal,” the company said last year. “We have nothing against black clothing and feel it is perfectly appropriate for things like tuxedos."