Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch locations in New York City have both been dealing with bedbug infestations this past week, and while I'm truly sorry for those who have been bitten by the pests, I can't say I'm bummed out about the store closures.
I grew up in New England, where khaki pants, polo shirts, and cableknit sweaters tied around your neck are the norm. While surely I had a few pieces from J.Crew in my wardrobe, and even used an L.L. Bean backpack, there was one store that made me cringe: Abercrombie & Fitch. From their shirtless male models greeting you at the door, to their overpriced chinos and grandpa sweaters, the whole preppy environment just turned me off. I had already moved to New York City when Hollister (another retailer owned by Abercrombie) opened in our local mall, but it seemed like an Abercrombie clone with 75% less lights in the store.
But these stores are both extremely popular in New York City, too. Locals and tourists alike line up outside both of Abercrombie's shops. Last year a 40,000 square foot Hollister store opened, and yes, they have shirtless male employees greeting all those who enter. Yet some teeny, tiny creatures were not met with a warm welcome. Bed bugs infested the Hollister store last week, and the store was shut down on Wednesday evening. An innocent sign read that the store was temporarily closed, but news quickly spread about the insect plague.
Bed bugs thrive in darkness (I knew that dim lighting was a problem!), and easily hide in nooks and crannies (wooden display tables and piles of clothing sound like the perfect home). Apparently three weeks ago an employee and a manager both reported bed bug bites, but no actions were taken. On June 29, another employee was bitten, and found a live bug and an exoskeleton on her borrowed Hollister outfit. Staffers were forced to keep working in the store until Wednesday, and it already reopened on Saturday. They claim they have eradicated the pests, and that they were only found in isolated areas of the store, but as I mentioned, bedbugs have a good way of hiding. In an environment where racks and garments are constantly moving around the store, we can only hope the entire building was treated properly.
But just as Holister reopened, Abercrombie & Fitch shut down their South Street store from a similar bedbug infestation. What is going on here? Did a popped-collar customer hit up both retail stores and bring the bugs with them? Thousands of customers shop and try on clothing at both stores every day, so this is possible. I'd guess the bedbugs also could have entered the shops from the same shipping facility. Abercrombie's flagship store on Fifth Avenue remains open and is reportedly free and clear of bed bugs, while their downtown location may be reopening as soon as Thursday. Of course, you won't catch me within a mile of either one. Shoppers: if ever there was a reason to forgo buying preppy clothing, this would be it. [WSJ][Huff Post]