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):
- The same clothes as straight-sizes with comparable prices.
- FASHION – on trend styles, colours and prints.
- “Young” clothes. Clothes that are aimed at women under 50, and under 30 that aren’t “party wear”.
- More bra/underwear/sleepwear options – particularly over size 20 and in large cup sizes, and in pretty/sexy/fashionable styles.
- 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.
- Plus-sized clothing for all aspects of life – professional, maternity, social, exercise, swimwear and so on.
- Natural fabrics.
- 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.
- Plus-sized accessories – tights, boots, belts that are fashionable and fit to the upper sizes.
- 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:
- 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.
- Positive marketing – no hide your body messages.
- Actually bothering with marketing to plus-sized customers. Not just a page jammed in the catalogue.
- 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.