Language training case study


Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch Co., through its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty retailer of casual apparel for men, women and children. It operates through three segments: U.S. Stores, International Stores and Direct-to-Consumer.

The company sells various products, including casual sportswear apparel comprising knit and woven shirts, graphic T-shirts, fleeces, jeans and woven pants, shorts, sweaters, and outerwear; personal care products; and accessories for men, women, and kids under the Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie kids, and Hollister brand names. It also offers bras, underwear, personal care products, sleepwear and at-home products for girls under the Gilly Hicks brand.

As of August 3, 2013, the company operated 1,057 stores comprising 265 Abercrombie & Fitch stores, 144 Abercrombie Kids stores, 478 Hollister Co. stores, and 20 Gilly Hicks stores in the United States; and 20 Abercrombie & Fitch stores, 6 Abercrombie kids stores, 116 Hollister Co. stores, and 8 Gilly Hicks stores internationally. The company was founded in 1892 and is headquartered in New Albany, Ohio.

The Problem

Store Managers who have English as their mother tongue were being assigned overseas to open retail stores in high profile shopping areas worldwide, including most of Europe, Japan, South Korea and China.  

They were tasked with recruiting an entire team of local Managers and store staff in a very short time.  Most Managers were complete beginners in the destination language and had little to no experience of the culture of the country they were being assigned to.

The Solution

Intensive Language Training. We designed intensive language training courses, 6 hours a day for 4-12 weeks, depending on the language.

Global Delivery. Courses have been delivered pre-departure or on-arrival at International House London and in International House schools worldwide where required, including Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, New York, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul.

Tailored Syllabus and Course Materials. Syllabus and materials are company specific at all times.  Courses combined general language skills and work specific language. Cultural awareness modules are integrated in the language programme throughout.

Regular Tutorials and Assessments. Weekly tutorials and progress assessments are implemented on all courses, ensuring a high degree of personalisation.

Practical, Task-Based Learning. Highly practical language tasks are included to enable Managers to interact with local people and transfer learning outside the training room immediately.

Targeted Online Learning Support. Customised online learning support platform for UK-based courses, enabling participants to pick up lesson notes, materials and access complementary resources.

Regular Course Reporting and Tracking. Regular course reporting to enable Abercrombie and Fitch HR to track course attendance, training content and learning progress, and for International House London to track overseas course delivery.


Managers consistently achieved an operational language level by the end of their course. They are also aware of the social and business culture of their destination country. They are ready to relocate and achieve the objectives set by the client.

International House London has been organizing an extensive global programme since 2009. From May 2012 to May 2013 alone, 61 Managers undertook 6494 hours of study around the world. The programme is on-going.

What course participants said:

“Due to the culture and language immersion systems at International House, I was able to learn a new language much faster than I had anticipated. My time at International House not only established a foundation for professional success, but also allowed for personal growth that aided in living in my new country of residence.” Chris

“We work with hundreds of people in our stores every day (customers and associates), and our 2 month intensive language training in German allowed us to break down any barriers our languages may have created. International House not only prepared us for daily social situations, but also went above and beyond to create specific work scenarios we would encounter on a daily basis making our transition into a foreign country that much easier.” Kelly

Abercrombie & Fitch case study

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