America

Mystery On Fifth Avenue: A Constant Line Outside Abercrombie & Fitch

A model at the front entrance to the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in New York City. i i

A model at the front entrance to the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in New York City. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images
A model at the front entrance to the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in New York City.

A model at the front entrance to the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in New York City.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Every day I walk down Fifth Avenue on my way to work. I pass glittering holiday store windows, the Salvation Army ringing its bells and the sparkling tree at Rockefeller Center.

But for months I've noticed a mystery: Only one store has huge lines outside before it opens: Abercrombie & Fitch.

Perhaps 90 people stand on line every day before opening, rain or shine. It's been going on for years and not just during this season.

It didn't make sense; you can find the store in almost any mall. So one day, I began asking people on the line where they were from: not one was from the United States.

They were from Hungary, England, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland, France, you name it. And they hadn't come because of the male models in the store — nude from the waist up — although a woman from the U.K. laughed and said, "of course it helps!"

I finally did some research. It turns out, the company has spent millions on a huge marketing campaign in Europe — but there are only a few stores there. So the New York store has become a beacon for every foreign tourist.

Who knew? Mystery solved.

(Margot Adler is a national desk correspondent based in New York.)

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