Thursday, October 4, 2007

Big Girls Can't Buy... Old Navy stores any more. Wait'll Sir Mix-a-Lot hears about this...

This piece of news via the on-the-case Zuzu at Feministe pissed me off to no end:

One of the things I always loved about Old Navy was that I could buy clothes there, regardless of my size. Their misses’ sizes go up to 20, which was great when I was up to a size 20, because the cut of misses’ clothing fits me better than anything at Lane Bryant. Then I went above that, but by that time, they’d introduced a women’s plus line, which was pretty darn cute, and still fit my shape pretty well.
Now, they’ve decided that they don’t want fat women in their stores. So their Women’s Plus line, which now goes up to size 30, is now exclusively online.

The stores will continue to carry men's sizes up to XXXL.

I have said to many female friends of mine that “you couldn't pay me anough to be a woman, with the shit you all go through”.

I buy a pair of socks for $4.00—they last a year. They buy a pair of $12 pantyhose, and they run with a look while opening the package.

I drop a shirt off at the laundry to be washed—I pay $2.00. They drop off a blouse—damn near identical except for the button placement, and they pay $5.00.

The glaring sexism and inequity in Zuzu's Old Navy story is yet another example of why I say what I do about not wanting to switch places. The scales are that out of balance between the sexes and the way the world works for them. In my trips to Old Navy, the shopping demographic is heavily skewed towards women—probably 70% to 30%. Women of all sizes shop there. Why, oh why would the retailer piss on part of their main shopping demo, by effectively ghetto-izing the size/purchase paradigm?

Because the data-point counting weasels in charge at Old Navy probably got hold of focus data indicating that their biggest spending demo feels stigmatized by having to dare rub shoulders with someone who might be over a Size 12. They would rather jettison the chunk of their consumers who skew a little bigger, than risk their slimmer buyers (who probably purchase more of the trendy, higher-profit margin items) going elsewhere to rub shoulders with other slimmer buyers at places that don't include larger-sized clothing.

The retailer Casual Corner did this a few years ago, ditching everything over Size 12 and moving that stuff to their sister outlets, August Max Woman (which unfortunately just sounds big rolling off the tongue)—and screwed up both businesses. Casual Corner and August Max would eventually close ALL of their stores as sales went into the crapper for both of them—Casual Corner's thanks to the seriously decreased foot traffic, and August Max's for an even uglier reason:

For years, August Max Woman produced full-figured fashions of the typical career/casual variety, but more importantly, it promoted those fashions on some of the loveliest plus-size models in the industry, including Barbara Brickner, Tracie Stern, Wyinnetka, Lara Johnson, and others. The campaigns were beautifully photographed, and often made use of gorgeous settings.

With that in mind, pay particular attention to the following bit of information in the Post article:

"Last month, the company closed down its 84-unit August Max chain, which specialized in plus size women's apparel, after being disappointed by the results of its revamping effort."

And what had that disappointing "revamping" effort entailed? You guessed it--eliminating the use of curvaceous goddesses, and instead promoting its plus-size fashions on mature, straight-size models.

One model who lost a booking at AMW at the time of this "revamping" relayed to us that she had been told by the company that they believed full-figured women "did not want to see fashions modelled on women with their own body types."


Well, it turns out that the opposite was true. AMW learned the hard way that what its customers did not want to see was plus-size fashion modelled on girls without their own body types.

Old Navy was originally set up as the “everyperson” store. Kitschy, fun, cheap, and with something for Mom, Dad, Junior, Uncle Ned and even Grandma in a pinch. But now, even they have succumbed to the “Forever 21-zation” of the retail apparel business—playing down to the hard-charging Paris/Nicole/Jessica/Ashlee-sized section of the buying public—and rather than insult those delicate flowers sensibilities by having curvier, more buxom girls inadvertently brush against them in the aisles (and heaven forfend—drive away a sale of Size Zero capris), they've opted to relegate the Plus-Size stuff either off-site, online, or off-the-list entirely. Now, this isn't a rag on the lanky girls—rather, it's a rag on what the corporate bigwigs will do to favor one market over another—which really serves neither market well.

There is a lesson to be taken by the suits at Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic from the Casual Corner/August Max fuckup.

And in the ultimate show of sexism at work, note that the fellas, who shop in Old Navy in much smaller numbers than do the women, can still get clothing in there up to Size Triple XL (XXXL)! That's right...a 300-pound man can walk into Old Navy and get a sweatshirt (XXXL) and a pair of jeans (Size 44 Waist) with no problem. But let a 160-pound woman stroll in there, and odds are she's gonna walk outta there empty-handed because in spite of her being part of the store's driving force sales-wise...she's just too damned big to be concerned with.

It's fucking ridiculous. My wife is curvy. Her friends are curvy. Shit, half the women in town have what Danny Thomas's “Uncle Toonoose” called, “da fronten undsh da backen”. They want to walk into a store they've been walking into for years and not all of a sudden be told that their money is too-hippy, too-busty, too-junk-in-the-trunky to be accepted in the registers anymore.

This superficial demographic play is cheap. It's anti-woman. And anti-common sense.

Let 'em know just that via the info below:

By Phone:
Call 1-800-OLD-NAVY (1-800-653-6289). Then select the following option:
Press 4 for general Customer Service inquiries.

By Mail:
If you have questions or comments about, write to 
Old Navy Online 
200 Old Navy Lane 
Grove City, OH 43123-8605

By Email:
Contact them via email at
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