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Newsjacking Backfires for American Apparel: Retailer's Attempts to Use Hurricane Sandy's Devastation As a Marketing Tool Fuels Social Backlash

After its attempts to use Hurricane Sandy‘s devastation as a marketing tool to promote a sale of its products, youth brand American Apparel is once again in PR hot water. As the storm threatened to make landfall along the East Coast on Monday, the controversial clothing company launched a 36-hour sale via email to those in Sandy’s path offering a 20-percent discount intended to relieve "boredom" from the storm. Not surprisingly, many took to Twitter outraged by the inappropriate and exploitative nature of the sales pitch.

Mashable highlighted one angry tweet that read: "Really @americanapparel? Sandy Sale email blast? really? The lowest of low. RT this if you are insulted." Another tweet read: "I just received a ‘Hurricane Sandy sale’ email blast from @americanapparel. I will forever boycott their stores. RT if you’re with me," the Daily Mail reports. "I don’t care if it’s ‘relevant,’ social media ‘newsjacking’ is gross and opportunistic," wrote another poster.

"Retail stores are the lifeline of a brand like ours so when they are closed, we need to come up with ways to make up for that lost revenue," said a store spokesman, who defended the action. "People forget how expensive it is to run a Made in USA brand like American Apparel and if we made a mistake here it came from the good place of trying to keep the machine going — for the sake of our employees and stakeholders," the person added, reports Daily Mail writer Victoria Wellman.

The brand was not alone in seizing on the opportunity of millions of people being trapped in their homes as a way to generate online sales, however: Shopping website Racked compiled a roundup of other stores, offering similar Sandy-themed sales. Customers were prompted to enter promo codes such as SANDYFREESHIP or SANDY to receive deals on free shipping or discounts as their store locations remained closed during and after the storm, the article reports.

Even Saks Fifth Avenue tweeted: "For those of you going stir crazy — our http://Saks.com site is happy to entertain you…"

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