Picture an expansive brand HQ is located over a bridge and in a forest on 506 acres of land with a dotting of fields and lakes. The buildings, designed by Anderson Architects, are wrought primarily of polished wood, metal and glass. They form a bustling campus that houses two distribution centers, three brand design teams and model stores for each brand, an innovation and design center, a cafeteria and the 2,200 people necessary to fuel clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch, as well as abercrombie kids and Hollister.
“The decision from leadership to have us build in New Albany has given us a lot more space to play with and gives us the ability to do something like that. If you’re in a city center you’re limited a little bit more by space, “ says Josh Secrest, senior director of talent acquisition and associate/community engagement at A&F.
In the center of the campus’s sprawl—which is commonly traversed by employees via scooter—is a fire pit that is both a hangout/meeting spot and a symbol.
“It starts around the fire,” Secrest says. ”The way we think about our culture is it’s all of us kind of ‘gathering around the fire’ wherever we are in the world, and it’s meant to evoke the idea of inclusiveness and warmth and belonging, and the idea that we are all equal despite title here, so every time we do campus-wide events, largely it will happen here around the fire. It’s nice because it dates back to our heritage and the (1892) founding of the company,” he adds.
Although undeniably beautiful, the aesthetic of the A&F campus is not its most valuable component.
“The campus space is … also set up to be very functional so that we’re collaborative, productive; we have a community of people that come from all over the world. The thing we’re most proud of is the people here. It’s a high-quality person who’s ambitious and focused on helping A&F win, but there’s a goodness to them, “ says Secrest. “We are pretty unique within retail that we have almost all of our population here,” he adds. A singular location is also good for face-to-face meetings and open desk space allows for informal collaboration, which both in turn help things to get done quickly.
Something that has been coming up lately for the campus is how to use its distinctive space in even greater ways.
“What’s been really cool is how we’ve been encouraged to move the campus forward, consistently trying to think of how do we use this space to be even more productive, more collaborative, get more things done? It’s even, how do we use the cafeteria space? That used to be a functional, transactional space where you just pick up your food. Can that actually be used as a work space because now everyone has mobile technology?” asks Secrest.
Much of the campus-wide initiatives are things A&F hopes will trickle down to customers. Events like yoga on the lawn with beverages from Native Cold Pressed Juice afterward, a fitness center, soccer fields and a basketball court, cafeteria offerings from Bon Appetit focused on being both healthy and varietal and various community events are done partially to build and support A&F culture.
“How can we, through our home office, tell the same story we are trying to tell customers within stores? The quality, the goodness piece, and the fact that we are constantly innovating and moving forward,” says Secrest. “How are we starting to plant seeds that may begin to trickle down to our customers?”