I don’t know about you all, but I’m REALLY sick of businesses complaining that they’re not making enough money, or that their stock doesn’t sell. Let me give you an example.
Two and a half years ago, after raising the issue on their Facebook page, I met with the buyer and a marketing exec from Target Australia. It wasn’t the first time I had been in contact with them or the first time they had responded what I felt at the time was favourable, I’d had a go four years ago as well. At this visit, we had a very detailed discussion about the state of their plus-size stock and the marketing of it. The two women were both enthusiastic, well engaged and keen to get it right. They went back to head office to see what could be done. To their credit, they kept in touch with me for about 12 months, but sadly, neither the stock options nor the way it was marketing changed at all and then I stopped hearing from them. In the meantime, I kept letting Target Australia know via their Facebook page which straight sized garments I would like to see available as plus-sizes. I had also posted again on the topic here, about the disparity between straight sizes and plus-sizes.
Earlier this year, they contacted me again. They said, we have a new buyer and designer for our plus-size range. We’d love to talk to you. I gave them quite a lot of my time and energy explaining that a) many plus-sized women are not ashamed of their bodies and really just want to wear the same things as straight sizes do, though that wasn’t a request for them to get rid of any of the existing stock, because like everyone else, fat women have varied tastes, and b) when their plus-sizes are not represented adequately in their marketing, it feels like they’re ashamed of it or are ashamed of fat customers. Besides, how can we know about their product if they won’t market it? Again, both the buyer and the designer were enthusiastic and well engaged, and they told me to wait until about August/September because it takes about six months for new stock to come through. I keep letting them know via their FB page and their customer feedback surveys.
In that time, they send out an email bemoaning that they did not make the profits last financial year that they believed they should have, and offered another survey asking how they can make it better. I diligently filled that one out too.
Fast forward to this month, and I’ve got a nice cheque from a writing gig I recently did, and I’d like to spend that windfall on clothes. I go over to the Target Australia website and look up dresses. Over 120 dresses available, but let’s filter that down to plus-sizes. ONE. One dress. It’s a dull, drab, dark blue shirt dress in plus-sizes. In a sea of pretty party frocks, floaty maxi dresses, cute skater dresses, professional shifts and elegant evening dresses in straight sizes.
It is so dispiriting, so depressing to time and time again have them ignore what we are looking to spend our money on, as if our money is not as good as everyone else’s. So, I thought, constructive feedback is good for businesses to hone their product and service. So, I left them the following post on their FB page:
This was the response I got:
It is so frustrating and so insulting to have a business, one of the very few that even offers my size, so clearly not want my money, and that of many other fat women who would LOVE to be able to shop. It’s insulting that they claim that plus-size stock doesn’t sell, when they won’t listen to their customers and won’t market what stock they do have in the same way that they do straight sizes. It’s insulting that they put so much effort into a petites range which is a tiny percent of the population, but ignore what is statistically the majority of women in the country.
As you can see, I’m not the only one who feels this way, by the likes on my response.
My friend Sonia responded to my post on FB by demonstrating just how ridiculous the “we can’t make the same clothes for plus-sizes as straight sizes” line is, with the following screen captures:
Sadly, most other brick and mortar mainstream retailers are the same. Autograph Fashion has been a sea of dull black and grey for months, and don’t seem to be interested in livening up their stock to something a bit more, you know, fashionable. Kmart only stock plus-size sacks made out of the cheapest, nastiest fabrics. City Chic, Millers, Crossroads all cut off the upper sizes of plus-sizes. Big W to their credit does have a little better stock, but they hardly market it at all.
I am pretty sure it’s the same in most of the rest of the western world, but brick and mortar businesses are doing a whole lot of complaining that customers aren’t shopping “Australian” and that we’re taking our money to online businesses. Almost every week one of the current affairs shows has complaints from Australian retailers about the amount of money leaving the country for online shopping for overseas businesses. I don’t know about you, but my current thoughts on this is “Tough titties.” If you won’t put effort into providing the products that we want, and you won’t market proudly the stock that you do carry, what do you expect? Why should we have to do all the work when it comes to finding suitable clothing? That’s genuinely what they expect, for us to visit their store every week in the vain hope that something has changed. If you want me to spend my money in your business, you’d better be a) providing something I want and b) promoting it so that I know it’s there. It’s the basic principle of retail.
I don’t have any qualms at all about sending my money to overseas/online businesses while local brick and mortar ones are treating their plus-size customers as second class citizens. They’re disinterested and full of excuses. You can’t ignore a whole group of your customers and/or decide it’s “too hard” and then complain that they take their shopping dollars elsewhere. I have offered countless times to give them my time and energy to help them do the one thing they’re supposed to want to do – make their customers spend more money, yet all I and others get are insincere platitudes and empty promises.
The offer is still there for any of those big brick and mortar retail businesses. I’m more than happy to give my time and energy to any business that wants to win plus-size customers. Prove that you want us as your customers, and we’ll come back. We WANT to shop in store, to be able to shop with our friends, try things on, buy whole outfits with shoes and accessories, shop on our lunch breaks and buy local. But if you’re not going to provide it, don’t complain that we take our money elsewhere.
*Note, I have just had a look on Target’s page again (the screenshots above were taken two weeks ago) and they now have 3 dresses out of 111 in plus sizes. One of which is actually kind of cute! Still not good enough though.