Back to school is typically a prime shopping season. Yet The Children’s Place recently learned a hard lesson about merchandise that furthers gender stereotypes after widespread criticism prompted the retailer to pull a girl’s T-shirt that featured what many called a sexist imprint.
The shirt depicts a list of My Best Subjects with checkmarks next to shopping, music and dancing, but not math. As a result, parents headed to The Children’s Place’s Facebook page in droves, leaving more than 2,000 comments about the apparel. The story was then picked up by several news sources, after which The Children’s Place announced it would no longer sell the shirt.
The company published a Facebook post apologizing for the incident.
“It has come to our attention that some of you view our Best Subjects T-shirt as insensitive towards girls and women. This was not our intent. There are countless women in all walks of life who excel in math, including our very own CEO. We have pulled this product from our stores and we want to express our apologies to anyone we may have offended.”
Online conversation about the controversy has continued, divided primarily into two groups: those who were offended by the shirt’s slogan, and those who think other parents and consumers are overreacting.
Lesson learned? Think before you print. If you sell or distribute promotional products that feature slogans or other catchphrases, it doesn’t hurt to do some extra analysis before the products are created. Will that particular item be made in good taste? Or does it run the risk of alienating a sizable portion of your customer base, thereby sending you into crisis mode—and your customers to your competitors? This is where you can really use your staff and solicit their input before moving forward with product buys or orders. Take a quick poll when it comes to promotional products like these and see what your people think. It’s an easy way to use your own resources to do some research beforehand that could potentially save you a lot of grief.
This incident also underscores the continual importance of a crisis plan. Many have applauded The Children’s Place’s apology and decision to pull the shirt. Even better, however, is for the situation not to happen in the first place, although it’s not always easy to predict how consumers will react. Other apparel makers, including Nike, Solid Gold Bomb, Adidas and, more recently, Urban Outfitters, were criticized earlier this year for T-shirt imprints that featured questionable material (or, in the case of the Nike shirt, downright incorrect information: the Carolina Panthers’ logo was printed atop a silhouette of South Carolina, instead of the team’s home state of North Carolina. Oops.)
What do you think about this incident? Big deal or blown out of proportion? Did they make the right decision pulling the product? We’d love to hear what you think.
Image via Promo Marketing