CEO personal opinions make or break companies

Posted on Apr 18 2014 - 7:59am by Guest Writer

By Katelynn Padron, Business Writer

A CEO’s opinion can make or break a company. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) and fast food chain Chick-fil-A have both been affected by their CEOs’ opinions.

A&F CEO Michael Jeffries’ personal opinions added to a downward spiral in sales.

Jeffries is still under scrutiny for comments he made in 2006 about the “exclusionary” brand.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said in an interview with Salon, a news and entertainment website.

“We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Last spring, Jeffries’ controversial comments circulated the Internet. Many consumers said they were offended, causing A&F to lose popularity.

Jeffries apologized on Facebook saying, “A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers.”

He continued to say the company is opposed to any “discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics.”

Most Facebook commenters didn’t buy the apology.

One commenter wrote, “Sales must’ve dropped this week.” Another commented, “I’ll believe it when he adds bigger sizes.”

Some, however, were supportive: “If there are stores specifically meant for just plus sizes,” one commenter wrote, “what’s wrong with a store specifically for smaller sizes?”

A&F’s sales have diminished for the last four quarters, according to Bloomberg.

Another CEO’s views fueled a controversy that led to record-high sales.

According to The Huffington Post, “the Baptist family that owns Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain based in Atlanta, has for years given millions of dollars to organizations fighting same-sex marriage and supporting heterosexual ones.”

Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A also told the Baptist Press that “We know that it might not be popular with everyone,  but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Cathy’s views led many gay marriage supporters to protest Chick-fil-A.

A trio of drag queens even recorded a parody to the tune of “Hold On” by Wilson Philips. It’s called “Chow Down (at Chick-fil-A).”

The drag queens sang about their love of Chick-fil-A food and about their sexuality.

“Chick-fil-A says you make the baby Jesus cry … Chow down at Chick-fil-A, even if you’re gay,” the song went.

Regardless of the negative publicity, Chick-fil-A’s sales rose 12 percent.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dubbed the company’s 2012 record sales day “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

Despite the record sales, Cathy expressed his regrets about associating the company with his views.

“I think that’s [same-sex marriage is] a political debate that’s going to rage on,” Cathy said in a March 14 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And the wiser thing for us to do, is to stay focused on customer service.”

The results of a CEO’s opinions are somewhat unpredictable. While Michael Jeffries’ opinions further buried A&Fs sales, Dan Cathy’s were beneficial to Chick-fil-A.

Regardless of the effect on sales, both CEOs apologized for offending and alienating consumers.