Talking to Target Australia

Published January 15, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

As I mentioned in my last post, I met with a couple of fabulous folks from Target Australia on Thursday to talk plus-size clothing.  Trudy and Lynn flew up from their Geelong head office and met me at the Myer Centre store and gave me quite a few hours of their time, which to me, is a win right there.  Instead of writing off customer feedback with the cut and paste “Thank you for your feedback, we’re listening and will endeavor to make changes in our stores.” and calling it done, they listened, took it away and thought about it, and decided to take some action.  That will always get my attention as a business that is interested in making their customers genuinely happy.

So we spent some considerable time talking over a coffee about plus-size clothing – from all aspects – from my own personal taste and style, through to the politics of fashion and style, the diversity of needs of plus-size customers, garment construction, fabric quality, price, fitting plus-size bodies, store layout, customer experience, marketing… the list goes on.  We then went down into the store and went through the very small plus-size section, had a look at about half of the straight-size selection (and talked about how no matter your taste, everyone in straight-sizes is catered to, yet plus-sizes have pretty much one or two basic themes) and went through the exercise wear, because I brought up the ridiculous double standards of “Exercise fatty!!” but there being no suitable exercise clothes for anyone over a size 18!

In fact, while we were in the exercise wear, a woman came up to us and asked Trudy and Lynn if they were taking customer feedback, and quite passionately expressed her frustration at not being able to find suitable and practical shorts for exercising in.  She echoed pretty much the same thing I was telling them!

And finally they showed me a bunch of samples and drawings to get an idea of the kind of things that appeal to me and how I felt about the ones they had there.

I also talked to them about the politics and psychology of fashion for fat women, the way that fat women are othered by the media and general culture, and how marketing that suggests we need to hide our bodies or blend into the surroundings at all do not inspire us to spend money – quite the opposite.

All in all, it was over 3 hours and I talked their ears off – but they were both interested and engaged, enthusiastic about making customers happy, asked plenty of intelligent questions and were willing to rethink some of their perspectives about plus-size clothing.  They took copious notes (I’ll be kind and send them some links and dot points – it was a LOT of information!) and assured me that Target Australia will be rethinking their approach to plus-size clothing.

Bear in mind that a company like this plans for up to a year in advance with clothing lines, so it will take time to see any changes come through.

So, I went through all of the responses I got back from you here and on the #targetplus thread on Twitter, and broke them down into 10  key things we want to see (pretty much everything listed fits into these 10 categories in some way):

  1. The same clothes as straight-sizes with comparable prices.
  2. FASHION – on trend styles, colours and prints.
  3. “Young” clothes. Clothes that are aimed at women under 50, and under 30 that aren’t “party wear”.
  4. More bra/underwear/sleepwear options – particularly over size 20 and in large cup sizes, and in pretty/sexy/fashionable styles.
  5. Scaling of garments – an understanding that not all plus-size bodies are shaped the same or the same height and that larger does not mean longer/bigger arm & neck holes.
  6. Plus-sized clothing for all aspects of life – professional, maternity, social, exercise, swimwear and so on.
  7. Natural fabrics.
  8. Structure of garments – eg, underwire in swimwear, straps/necklines to cover plus-sized bras, crotch levels in the appropriate place, necklines that are between choking-mega cleavage and so on.
  9. Plus-sized accessories – tights, boots, belts that are fashionable and fit to the upper sizes.
  10. Basics/classics in plain colours other than black and white – cami’s, cardigans, tank tops, t-shirts, jeans and so on.

For an extra couple of points – many would like to see plus-size cater to size 32AU and let’s not forget all of the above for plus-sized men as well.

On top of that, a few marketing things:

  1. Location in store – not at the back, not behind the shoes, not next to Maternity.  Somewhere that says the store is as proud and welcoming to plus-sized customers as they are everyone else.
  2. Positive marketing – no hide your body messages.
  3. Actually bothering with marketing to plus-sized customers.  Not just a page jammed in the catalogue.
  4. Designer/celebrity ranges.

I will be sending an email to Trudy and Lynn with this information and a bunch of links to show them lots of fatshion and what other businesses are doing right.

One important message I have for you all though, particularly those of you here in Australia since I’ve spoken to Target Australia – if you see positive changes to Target’s plus-size merchandise, buy it.  Put your money where your mouth is.  There is no use complaining if you’re not going to spend your money if they make positive changes.  And be sure to tell other people about them when they get it right.  It’s really important to reward those who make the effort and get it right.

Hopefully this is the beginning of some really positive steps towards improving the plus-size options from Target Australia, and I’ll keep you all posted with anything I hear in the future.

31 comments on “Talking to Target Australia

  • This is really exciting. The vast majority of my family’s clothes come from Target (that is, husband and the kids). The rest comes from Best and Less (good prices for clothes kids are going to grow out of in a hurry). I tend to buy most of my clothes from Autograph and Target, that said, the items from Target tend to be leggings (black as that is the only colour they sell) and tshirts/long sleeved tshirts. And the occasional knit. Whereas I spend hundreds of dollars a year at Autograph simply because they have items that a/ fit and b/ are more on trend/appealing to me. I would be happy to spend my money at Target if they offered what I want. And I see HEAPS of straight sized items in Target that I love, they just aren’t offered in my size, otherwise I would so be buying them!

    The plus size section in my store is actually in a not too bad place. It is right in front of and slightly to the left of the lay bye counter. It is bordered by the socks/tights section, the active wear section, a wall and the straight sizes. However it is TINY compared to the other sections and offers about 10 different styles (if that) other than basic leggings, jeans and tshirts. Not much variety at all unfortunately.

    I hope they did listen and that they do instigate some much needed changes. Thankyou for taking the time to work them on this!

  • I am both very excited about this opportunity for Australian women and sad that it’s unlikely to have much impact here in America. 😉 I did just now email the American corporation and begged them to look into what Australia just learned from you and consider applying it here too. I never honestly believe that I can make a difference, but I also know that if I don’t do anything, then I don’t get to complain, so… 😀 Still, it’s incredibly encouraging that they’re starting to listen!

    • Bless you, Shalora! I was just thinking how those same changes need to come here, especially since they just *shrunk* the plus size offerings by changing their size model (since when is an 18-20 a 2x?). I believe I will have to do the same as you. Thank you!

      And thank you Sleepydumpling! Without you, neither one of us would have something to which we could point the US team….

      • Ugh, right? I had *completely* forgotten that they had done that – should have read this comment yesterday! I was in Target today for some totally non-clothing-related errands, and as I was checking out I saw that they had some adorable new tank tops in the athletic wear in really pretty colors. On sale. I snagged one – but I didn’t take the time to try it on (yes, I know better, sigh) because my stuff was already on the belt at the checkout and “hey, I know how their brand of athletic wear fits me”. Um, no, I know how it used to fit me last year. Since they’ve changed their size model, I am now a 3X, even though I’m a 2X everywhere else – but they don’t CARRY a 3X, so the tank top won’t fit… and I can’t buy athletic wear there anymore. Which sucks, because the local plus sized stores mostly carry mumus. I should check Wal-Mart, they go to something like a 4X or 5X… Even if they have the same dumb size change as Target, at least they’ll carry the 3X that I apparently now need.

        This SUCKS.

        (and they’d better let me return that stupid tank top)

  • I’m so pleased it went well! I hope to see some changes come through. I know my mother, my sister and myself will be shopping there if these changes are made! They may even get a positive review from me in the future. 😛

  • I really hope they take on what you have told them, Kath. I cannot shop in Target at all because their sizes simply do not fit me. It makes me very sad because there are NO plus sized options where I live (Hervey Bay) other than Target and Big W!!! I have to buy everything off the net and more often than not Autograph are sold-out of my size,

    What’s a fatty to do? I pledge that I will absolutely spend what little clothing budget I do have at Target if they develop a more engaging plus sized range.

    Thanks Kath, for speaking on behalf of all of us plus sized Aussies, and thanks Target for actually listening!

  • Kath, you are amazing. I will definitely keep an eye out at the Targets near me. I am always in love with their straight size clothes but am so bored by their plus sizes. I did happen to buy some cardis there this year, but again, so many of their things are just not suitable for my shape or they’re terribly unfashionable. (And don’t get me started on the fabric they use for their pants. UGH.)

    I hope they take things to heart for plus men as well. My husband is my height and while not obese, needs a bit larger than a straight size. I can never find clothes to fit him as it seems they assume if you’re ‘big’, you’re ‘big everywhere’ and the clothes are structureless.

    The only other thing I would have added was the availability of plus size maternity clothes at reasonable prices – as I have found out this year, there is nowhere that caters to over a size 20-22 for pregnant women in Melbourne (and online stores often charge close to $100 for a tee. I have had to order clothes online from overseas to get things in my price range. One step at a time, but if they ask again… 🙂

    Keep inspiring us all!!

  • If they do plus sizes in natural fibres (work dress code) that look professional, they’ve got my dollars. I’m plus size, love fashion, and have a fashion budget that largely goes overseas. I need trousers, blouses, jackets, skirts, cardigans, foundation garments, I want pretty, on-trend items and classics. And, I want things that show off my lovely waist and nice bum.

    I recently spent a year in the UK. I kid you not, I cried the first time I shopped in Marks and Spencer. I could buy clothes. Not from the sad rack of polyester for fatties out the back. I got a pair of trousers from the sale rack, a party dress from the front of the store, I spent a lot on clothes. (I just did the maths, not including shoes? 400 a month, minimum. Pounds, not Aussie dollars. Admittedly, some of that was building a much needed wardrobe of basics. A lot of that was ‘Ooooh, pretty!”)

    And I so hear you on exercise clothes. I get mine off the internets from the UK: where they are cheap. I run marathons, so I want clothes that do the job. I paid $130 for my last sports bra, happily, because it does the job. Target? Get it right, that money goes to you. There are lots of women like me, who like looking pretty, have money, and are bigger than size 12.

  • I’m stoked! You are fantastic and so are they for really taking this on board.

    I went to Target yesterday and looked at bras. Now I’m only a 14E, but I left without buying any. None of the pretty ones were left in my size, the maternity section (I’m still breastfeeding) was TINY and the 3 bras that I did try on all seemed to have different dimensions (cup, strap etc) but were all claiming to be 14E!

    Definitely keen for a bigger maternity line. Target is one of those places that you should be able to go to for your basics and your affordable everyday clothes. I struggled to find a pair of black pants for work when I was pregnant. Couldn’t find a skirt! And the clothing section was terrible. Bear in mind I was only pregnant in 2010!

    I promise to put my money where my mouth is.

    Thank you again! A lot of women owe you their thanks for this 😀

  • I buy a lot of stuff at Target, because I can fit into some of their 18s. My hubby, though, has found it increasingly difficult to find anything there recently. I can guarantee we’ll spend money there if they deliver!

    I know a lot of work goes into this, and I really appreciate your efforts.

  • Hey Kath,
    You aren’t just changing the Target stores in Australia, you are opening the minds and possiblilites for plus size women women all over the world!!
    Keep writing, Keep talking. We’ll keep on supporting, cheering and spreading the word!!
    Liz McCallum
    Founder: Big Beautiful Wellness

  • Fabulous! Courageous and heroic work, Kath!!!

    In the late 90s, I heard that WalMart was selling bikinis in sizes up to 3x. I am not a WalMart customer. Where I live, there aren’t any WalMart stores. I drove for 45 minutes to buy a whole bunch of rad fatty bikini pieces ($8 for a bikini bottom or boy-short or a cute halter top!) in attractive fabric patterns that were so very stretchy (soft cotton knit with spandex) that I imagine they could fit a large 4x size. I realize WalMart does a lot of evil stuff worldwide, but I’ve always felt good about that purchase.

  • I love you for doing this. And I love Target for doing this. Thank you, and thanks also to Trudy and Lynn. Reading this is so inspiring and uplifting 🙂

  • I missed the boat on these comments, but a great tip I picked up from a lady working at City Chic was to buy a bandeau / boob tube top from Fashion Fair/Supre to wear under tops. This sorts out the gaping neckline issue for those who have the plus size bottom but not the ‘rack of doom’ to go along with it. There were only $4 each, so I have a few black one and one or two coloured ones now. Also, Avon and Best and Less were selling pretty pins used to pin cardigan necklines together. If Target had supplementary items like these near the plus sizes (well, any size) it would help to allow fashion to be tailored to the individual. Thinking about it, Big W also had some gimmicky type alteration aids where you could do an extend a button for jeans: it was a heavy duty button pin you could put closer to the button hole to give you an inch or more. You could also get velcro type tabs for trousers to bring up the hem without sewing. This would be great for where we buy bigger sizes, but don’t have the bigger length legs to go with!

    • I bought a bunch of bandeau tops from ASOS for pretty much exactly that purpose. Also to tone down cleavage inappropriate for certain workplaces. I use them to death – but remember to buy them a size bigger than you normally would, as I find my good fitting ones get a bit annoying by the end of the day – they kind of squeeze the bra a bit.

      And yes, it would be awesome if you could buy them everywhere!

  • These changes all sound very expensive, do you think they can deliver at the same price as the smaller sizes?

    • I wouldn’t count on this, any more than I would expect adult clothing to be sold at the same prices as children’s clothing. First things first – let it be available, let other stores see that there is a profit to be made, then let competition bring the price down somewhat. But let it be available FIRST.
      I feel better when I know there are exquisite clothes in my size – even if I can’t afford them – because then there’s hope for a less expensive version to trickle down to me. (Doesn’t it sort of work that way for clothes for thinner people?)

  • Thanks so much! The only plus size store within 200km of me is Target and it’s seriously disappointing to drive 70km to the nearest one and find it full of poorly fitting polyester – and my size (24 top 26 bottom) completely sold out anyway! I have the money, I want to buy things, but I can’t!

    Once I had a throat ultrasound and the technician got gel all over my t-shirt. I went to Target to buy a new one, but there were literally no tops in my size, let alone a plain t-shirt! I ended up buying a size 22 stretchy t-shirt and being very careful not to move too much until I got home.

  • Brilliant work! Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this and to Target for being willing to listen. I’ll certainly be buying if they can make these changes, I saw plenty of things recently that I would have bought in a flash if they came in my size. Buying online is great for variety but I really prefer trying things on in person. (And that’s another aspect of this issue for Target – the social aspect of shopping/browsing. How fantastic would it be to go shopping with your friends of all sizes and you didn’t have to go to different sections of the store, and everyone had the opportunity to try the same clothes!)

  • Great work. I’m not sure if I just need to track back further in the archives, but how did you get started with Target AU? I have recently become quite pissed off with the Targets in my area because they seem to be shrinking down the plus size sections, failing to even label them, and generally not trying hard at all. I thought I’d like to have a little chat with someone who could influence their policies, but perusing the website hasn’t really helped me that much.

    • Jayne – I am in the process of writing a post about this, it will be up shortly. On how to get started (and how to continue) with talking to retailers about their products and service.

  • Awesome work, Kath! I’m very excited by this. Thank you.

    I am right at the borderline between straight and plus, which is a very odd place to be. Often straight is too small, but then the start of the plus is… massive. Gaping neck hole, long long arms and a crotch that if I pulled it up it would come to up under my arms (and I have a big butt!).

    NATURAL fabrics, let me swoon. Oh yeah.

    Make. It. And. We. Will. Give. You. Money.

  • I’ve been pondering this post, and suddenly the line about the *location* of items in a store just leapt out and me and stole my brain. Because that is absolutely the number one problem I have in a certain bra store in my town – not the outrageous prices or the fact there is literally only ever 1 item in my size in the entire store, but the fact that I always have to walk PAST the expensive frilly designer items and PAST the sales racks and PAST the straight-size shapewear and PAST the pyjamas and PAST the maternity wear (and why the hell is maternity wear at the back, while we’re at it) to get to the “plus-size” range.

    And I do it with a downright aggressive strut these days, because I’m sick of feeling anxious that the shop assistants are watching me go past thinking “Mm, there goes the fat chick, back into the far corner of the shop where the fat chicks belong”. Which they probably aren’t thinking at all, but that’s what a lifetime in this society grinds into your brain …

  • Great work Kath!
    Target almost got it right a few years ago when they hired a new plus size buyer from the UK and the range seemed to be moving in the right direction. Alas she didn’t last very long (from what I understand there was a lot of figurative bashing of ones head against a brick wall (aka management) and we were instead lumbered with the atrocity that is the MODA range.

    Here’s to hoping that Target do truly take your ideas on board and try and incorporate them into future plus sized lines.

  • I have a question about the location thing and please forgive me if it seems stupid.

    Now, I understand that in pretty much every store you go into that has a plus size section, that that section will probably be at the back away from people’s immediate vision, and that’s not OK for reasons that others have much more eloquently explained.

    Given that *something* will always have to take up space at the back of the store, what would be the best change to make so that plus sizes are not constantly “hidden away” but so that we avoid a situation where other groups (maternity, activewear, use your imagination here) begin to feel marginalised? Maybe stores should rotate their stock around the store every month or something so that everything gets a turn? Or maybe a better way would be to just give equal *amounts* of space to each clothing category, and present it all nice and vibrantly, and leave it all where it is – that way everyone gets to have the same shopping experience regardless of where the clothes are placed in store.

    Just thinking aloud I guess

    • It could just be a category – work wear, or jeans, or active wear, or whatever. Then there’s no particular group involved.

      Personally, I’m not a fan of the rotating theory, because I hate playing “hunt the department” every time I walk into a store. I’d rather they left things broadly where they are, after they’ve stopped hiding maternity & plus sizes (especially when they remove the signs) down the back.

      KMart, for a while, had their maternity stuff sprinkled through the store – maternity dresses were with the dresses etc. That’s the ideal for both maternity and plus sizes. Not least because it only really works if you have sensible quantities of all categories, so it encourages buyers to think in different terms.

      I bring up the maternity thing, because I own a lot of maternity clothes, they suit my shape. I loved it when KMart had them mixed in because I’d see a dress I liked the look of, realise it was maternity and then figure it might actually fit me.

    • Maybe a solution to the problem of marginalizing would be to organize the store by clothing type: dress section, jeans, professional wear, active wear, etc. They already do this for straight sizes, so why not put in the plus sizes with the regular sizes? Changes like this might lessen the stigma of plus sizes.

      I was actually told that I was in the “wrong section” in a Forever 21 last spring, by a store employee. That really irked me as completely rude and none of his business; he obviously judged my body and decided where I should shop in the store. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a segregated plus size section.

  • I can’t tell you how exciting this is to me.

    I am recovering from an eating disorder, and it would make me feel a bajillion times better about shopping for clothes in a mainstream store like Target when they promote all body types and a fashionable and diverse range of plus-size clothing. I think it would help remove the disjunction between ‘sexy/thin’ and that otherworld of the ‘fat’ clothes. Everybody could walk into a store and feel like there was something there for them, and they didn’t have to shop in ‘specialty stores’ for their ‘special problem’.

    That’s utopia, man- a world where no one is sending you particular messages about what it means to be sexy in a horribly covert way when you just want to buy a damn tshirt or something :’D

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