Ruehl No.925 (marketed as "RUEHL No.925"),
or simply Ruehl is an upscale
Abercrombie & Fitch
It is inspired by the artistic and cultural heritage
New York City's Greenwich Village. The brand
is designed for post-graduate individuals aged 22
through 35, retaining consumer basis past collegiate
consumers for the A&F company.
Ruehl retails its
leather goods, and
through its stores and ruehl.com.
Citing the current economic environment, in June
2009 Abercrombie & Fitch announced that it would
close all 29 Ruehl locations by January 2010.
A fictional Ruehl family was invented by Abercrombie &
Fitch to help tie together the elements of the Ruehl
Abercrombie & Fitch publicity material presents
them as a family of German immigrants who started
a leathergoods shop at the nonexistent address of
925 Greenwich Street in Greenwich Village. There
exist no building numbers past the 800s on Greenwich
Street and there are no records of an established
Ruehl family in the Village.
There is nothing very German about the name, in
the same sense that sister brand Gilly Hicks is
not Australian, although both claim to have roots
to those cultures. The name "Ruehl" is
a variation of the German last name "Ruhl."
CEO and Chairman of Abercrombie & Fitch,
Mike Jeffries, stated that Ruehl took years
of planning, mainly for the store's atmosphere and
image. From the start, the Company (A&F) was
determined to keep their new brand concept veiled
from public eyes.
Retail analysts viewed this as peculiar.
Not even retail landlords approached for space were
told about the concept. John C. Shroder (COO of
Westfield San Francisco Centre's U.S. operations)
confessed that it was A&F's reputation which
gave him the confidence to "sign up Ruehl sight-unseen."
Despite the secretive nature, rumors circulated
about a "distinct departure" from the
It was evident that A&F sought to maintain consumers
past ages 18 through 22.
The concept was to venture out as more mature and
sophisticated, all the while keeping it youthful.
Encouraging studies revealed that 35-to-40-year-olds
shop to look 25.
The brand was privately unveiled to investors-only
on "Investor Day" September 7, 2004.
The presentation was at Garden State Plaza in
At the introduction and press tour of the Westfield
Garden State Plaza location, Jeffries noted that
Ruehl is "the fantasy of what it's like to
graduate from college and go to New York and make
it. It's the New York fantasy."
He also repeatedly referred to Ruehl as "the
movie" because of its elaborate, flowing background.
Ruehl No.925 finally opened on September 24, 2004
with three locations. These were at Garden State
Plaza (New Jersey), Woodfield Mall (Illinois), and
the International Plaza (Florida). Designed to look
and feel like Greenwich Village, Ruehl really presented
a new, "more sophisticated" lifestyle
than other Abercrombie & Fitch brands. The store
prototype of this time was a two-floor prototype
measuring at 9,500 sq ft (880 m2).
Due to its structural form and size, locations capable
of housing the prototype became hard to acquire.
Mike Jeffries did not launch an online store upon
the opening of RUEHL. He wanted to attract customers
to the stores to experience the Ruehl atmosphere.
What was launched was a promotional website which
gave store listings, previewed the private online
policy, and allowed for email subscription to receive
news on RUEHL.
Original prices upon opening were roughly 30% higher
than at Abercrombie & Fitch (e.g. destroyed
blue jeans $148.00 USD).
Many consumers deemed this as too high for young
professionals who normally begin their careers at
In June 2005,
writer Alex Kuczynski published an article in The New York Times
about her experience in the store at Garden State Plaza. She described
the facade as "something provocative and different," and
compared the store greeter to a "nightclub bouncer on the watch
for good-looking customers." Kuczynski wrote that the store
name conjures up actress Mercedes Ruehl and her hapless roles; "try
as it might, the name just doesn't sound cool." She also criticized
the lighting techniques, saying that the dimness may encourage shoplifting
and that "people at that age [20's and 30's] aspiring to the
heights of sangfroid that Ruehl appears to promote would never deign
to exert effort to find the right size, let alone spend 10 minutes
squinting at a skirt to discern its color", a shame because "the
clothing is worth the time and the money." She said prices
were "reasonable", giving as an example $158 for the best-selling "destroyed"
In early 2007, RUEHL925.com became RUEHL.com
and was upgraded as an Adobe Flash Player page.
Also, to accommodate expansion, a new store prototype
was developed measuring at 7,200 sq ft
(670 m2). This new prototype encompasses
one sales level only, reducing construction costs
and increasing opportunities to secure prime locations.
A limited online store was finally launched on October
It sold fragrances and handbags in a limited quantity
of styles. By the end of the year, in an effort
to retain consumer basis, price points for Ruehl
clothing were significantly lowered as so to create
a minimal 10-15% difference between Abercrombie &
Fitch and Ruehl No.925 clothing. A&F rose its
jeans prices to make a $10 USD difference between
its jeans and RUEHL's.January 30, 2008 marked the
launch of the full online store.
On June 17, 2009, Abercrombie & Fitch announced
that it would close all 29 Ruehl locations by the
end of the fiscal year (January 2010).
Marketing and its resulting
Ruehl marketing photography has a blue
color scheme and
is more sophisticated than Abercrombie & Fitch.
Noticeably, some imagery uses angles of Greenwich
Village as a backdrop. Jeffries has made it clear
that sex in marketing is a continual importance
in Ruehl advertising.
For that reason, Bruce Weber shoots all campaigns.
He is most noted for his provocative and sexual,
beefcake work with Calvin Klein underwear and A&F.
Photography from RUEHL's early days evolved from
sepia and dark green color schemes before settling
on blue. High-profile models have appeared in Ruehl
marketing campaigns, including Miranda Kerr and
Ruehl is marketed with the address: RUEHL
New York, NY.
The brand has used the appropriate slogan, "Visit
us in the Village." Its main marketing logo "Ruehl
/ No.925 / Greenwich Street / New York" has
been revised and replaced with "Ruehl / No.925
/ Greenwich St / New York, NY". It mimics as
an actual address. And unlike other A&F brands
which rely on and owe their success to walking self-marketing
in schools, Ruehl must follow more rigid advertisement
techniques to make itself more known to the public.
Marketing techniques used on Ruehl have not benefited
revenue expectations for the brand. The average
RNY store generated sales of over $3.2 million
USD in 2006.
In comparison to
Hollister's outstanding popularity and sales
by 2004 (four years after its opening), revenue
from Ruehl by 2008 has not been satisfying. Giving
R925 more of a resemblance to the A&F style
(noticeable on Hollister), but maintaining flare,
is a marketing move being practiced to increase
figures (by attracting same-company customers).
Potted palm trees (found in A&F/HCO stores)
have been added instore. The "Ruehl No.925"
name is stamped and embroidered more noticeably.
Recently reduced price points will also make it
easier for same-company customers to enter the Ruehl
market, and the new store prototype will gain faster
expansion than before. Even production rollouts
have been made similar to its sister brands. A&F
hopes that Ruehl will eventually grow as a strong,
popular, post-grad brand: similar to A&F with
collegiates and Hollister with high-schoolers. Customers
seeking a more dark and mature look will find Ruehl
their choice out of all Abercrombie and Fitch's
Ruehl branding and merchandise
official logo for Ruehl No.925 is the French bulldog
Trubble. He is the little "inquisitive"
bulldog with a "steadfast demeanor" and "confident
attitude" who walked into the Ruehl family
shop in the mid-1850s - so states the fictional
background to RUEHL.
He was, as the fake literature continues, the family's
first customer (to their surprise and delight).
Subsequently, Trubble became the logo for the brand.
His name, "Trubble", is a play on the
word "trouble." It signifies the trouble
that Mike Jeffries and his development team underwent
to create an appealing logo for RUEHL. Before deciding
on Trubble, the company experimented with different
designs on RNY polos. The logos included: "R925";
an artistically cursive "R"; and "Ruehl
/ No.925". The bulldog from the Ruehl background
was finally selected and christened "Trubble"
- a sort of counterpart to the Abercrombie moose,
the flying Hollister Co. seagull, and the Gilly
Hicks Koala. Trubble is today embroidered on Polos
and silk-screened on other merchandise. Trubble
also occasionally has a series of tees dedicated
to his iconic image.
Ruehl released the marketing slogan "Get into
Trubble at RUEHL" in August 2008.
Merchandise cycles in stores weekly and there are
four main seasonal clothing rollouts. These are
the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Christmas seasons.
In efforts to entice consumers, books, newspapers,
and fresh flowers are also on sale.
Merchandise is made only available in Ruehl stores
and at RUEHL.com.
The sophisticated Ezra Fitch Collection by
Abercrombie & Fitch released in 2004 and discontinued
later on shares a similarity to Ruehl clothing.
Ruehl No.925 clothing is more sophisticated than
of what is expected at college-inspired Abercrombie &
It has been described as "edgier versions of
Polo Ralph Lauren
Some Ruehl fashions could very well be "office-appropriate".
Mike Jeffries however calls Ruehl "100% casual."
The price points at Ruehl are the highest in the
family of Abercrombie & Fitch brands. This fact
remains even after the drop in original price points.
Now nicknamed "A&F + $10" by original
customers, there lingers a feel that the brand has
been degraded from its high-end image (by the drop
Clothing articles encompasses of tops (i.e. tees,
shirts), bottoms (i.e. jeans, shorts), swim wear,
accessories (i.e. flip flops, handbags), and underwear
Lingerie and sleepwear
were also previously offered to women (discontinued
because of the
Gilly Hicks brand).
Materials used for Ruehl apparel are of a much higher-grade
(using heavier denim, cashmere for sweaters, and
embossed leather) than in other A&F brands.
Overall, Jeffries wants Ruehl to be positioned as
a "jeans expert", with RNY jeans dominating
the assortment of apparel.
Inside all jeans is the embroidery: Ruehl New
York 10014 (the New York City zip code).
Fragrance and leather
Ruehl carries Signature (both cologne and
perfume) and R-4 perfume and R-7 cologne.
Signature cologne is the representing scent
of the brand, and is sprayed at intervals throughout
the day in-store.
RNY became the first in the chain of Abercrombie &
Fitch brands to produce a genuine leather goods
line for both men and women. Because of low purchasing
rates, however, the men's leather goods were discontinued
(e.g. wallets and messenger bags). Women's bags,
however, remain quite popular. Purse prices are
at level with
Coach prices for
However, some Ruehl purses have reached the amount
of $898 USD.
Celebrity patrons of Ruehl who enjoy the bags include
Minka Kelly, and
Vanessa Ann Hudgens.
A favorite of theirs became "Anabelle,"
a white leather clutch which "...is everything
that this season's It bag wants to be."
Ruehl No.925, in collaboration with its photographer
Bruce Weber, produces what are called "Ruehl
books." These are limited edition photography
books. They encompass of photography inspired by
the artistic and cultural heritage of Greenwich
Village. The publications are similar to A&F
Quarterly, a racy magalog also produced by Weber.
The floor layout
A typical Ruehl No.925 is structured as
three, two-floored or single floored
Artificial windows contain flower boxes, and
a black awning on the 3rd facade reads "RUEHL."
Surrounding the facades are wrought iron fences.
Resembling a home off of
Greenwich Street, concrete walkways line
in front of the store, leading to the two entrances.
Inside, the store is walled off into about more
than ten rooms. Entering the main entrance,
there is a large corridor which divides the
men and women departments. The flooring is of
dark wood. To emphasize a Greenwich home, the
women's side of the store contains the rooms
of a normal home. This includes a family room
surrounded by couches and chairs with Ruehl
merchandise displayed. There is also a dimly-lit
bedroom which can be led to the back of the
women's side of the store containing one more
room known as the closet. The closet is filled
with women's apparel with a crystal chandelier
hanging low from the ceiling. The men's side
of the store contains a large room holding Ruehl
denim across the wall. This room is located
on the first floor and can be overseen from
a bedroom containing a balcony. The men's side
of the store has the secondary rooms of a Greenwich
home. Men's merchandise are located into three
bedrooms and overflow into the Garage.
At the end of the hallway separating the women's
and men's side, is a divan surrounded with books
and modern art.
Art and marketing photography are displayed
as if in an art gallery. Merchandise is found
on actual bookshelves and tables.
Numerous bookshelves contain copies of actual
antique books for sale, such as by authors Jackson
Pollock and Willem de Kooning
The merchandise highlighted with spot lighting
and lamps. Located in the back corner of the
store is the cashwrap, also known as the Garage,
and is designed to have brick walls, dim/flickering
lighting, and windows to represent the outside
using intelligent lighting techniques. CDs are
available for purchase upon request
and some stores are known to have a burning
Jeffries says the idea is to make the shopper
feel in a unique place, a "private home."
The music mixed for the brand attempts to employ
soft modern lounge/Downtempo tunes with jazzy
beats to personify the jazz-influenced musical
heritage of the Village. The modern art displayed
instore is nostalgic to modern artists living
in the early-20th century Village. The dim lighting
projects an upscale image in the retail world,
and so does the lingering opulent scent of
Signature. In A&F's words, "The
classic décor and opulent ambience create a
luxurious lifestyle inside this romantically
lit West Village brownstone."
Kevin Ramstack (division manager of the Garden State
Plaza store) revealed that new customers become
overwhelmed over the number of rooms, "At first,
The lack of typical mall windows also mislead shoppers'
view of the brand.
A 50-year-old-man (interviewed by the
New York Times) who walked into a Ruehl
brownstone found himself in what he called "the
wrong place" among "skimply dressed teenagers
and stacks of tee-shirts that read Friday is
casual sex day ."
He later confessed that the problem was "you
really had to guess what it was until you got in."
Quite on the contrary, a 17-year-old and her friend
stated that they enjoyed the experience of the brand
and that "instead of being in the middle of
New Jersey, we are on a street in
New York, and that is where we want to be anyway
-- living in
New York City."
Many retail executives disagree with the idea of
no mall windows.
Some agree that stores similar to Ruehl (like
Martin + Osa) with original and provocative
storefronts attract curiosity to themselves against
other mall merchants, and, thus, aid themselves
economically. However, others contradict by stating
that brands with storefronts as such are merely "shooting
themselves in the foot when it comes to new customers
who are so critical to a brand's success."
However, with concern to RUEHL, Andrew McQuilkin
(vice president of design at FRCH Design Worldwide)
settles that "they [the storefronts] are sending
a message early in the conversation [between consumer
and store] that says you belong or you don't belong...The
17-year-old who wants to live in New York belongs.
The 50-year-old suburban dad does not."
Also, Kurt Barnard (president of Barnards Retail
Consulting Group) stated that "the risk-taking
behind Ruehl is not only a smart idea, it totally
falls in line with the massive transformation of
retail. Newness is needed. Abercrombie may have
a hit upon a way to hold onto existing customers
as they exit their teens."
On June 17, 2009, Abercrombie & Fitch announced
it would close all 29 Ruehl stores.
Mike Jeffries, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman
of the Board of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., said:
It has been a difficult decision to close
RUEHL, a brand we continue to believe could
have been successful in different circumstances.
However, given the current economic environment,
we believe it is in the best interests of
the Company to focus its efforts and resources
on the growth opportunities afforded by
our other brands, particularly internationally.
While I am disappointed with the ultimate
outcome, I am grateful for the effort and
commitment the Ruehl team has shown in developing
and positioning that brand in the marketplace.
In particular, the recent strides made in
differentiating and elevating the Ruehl
assortment make this an especially difficult
decision. However, all of our brands will
benefit from our experience and lessons
learned with RUEHL.