Saturday, May 09, 2009

Marks & Spencer busted

Marks & Spencer took out full-page print ads in several publications across the U.K. yesterday. Why? They were apologizing to women for a surcharge (approx. $3.50) on bras with DD cups or larger. (Read the full story in today’s Globe.)

There was such an outburst, Britain’s largest clothing retailer succumbed to public pressure and back-peddled on their policy. For example, to date,16,600 women joined a Facebook group called Busts 4 Justice in protest. Kudos to Marks & Spencer for listening to their customers. They decided to publicly apologize (hence the ads) and are offering a 25% discount on all bras for the next two weeks.

All this got me thinking about consumer activism and what we’ll tolerate when it comes to paying a premium on clothing (and footwear) according to size.

Don’t get me wrong, I instinctively thought there was something wrong with Marks & Spencer’s policy. But we pay a premium for larger sizes all the time. No one balks at stores specializing in clothing larger or taller women. Think about those stores charging higher prices for kids’ clothes as the size increases.

What do you think? Did Marks & Sparks cave too easily to pressure from a Facebook group or did they do the right thing? If you had been offended by a similar policy, would a public apology combined with discount be enough to restore your support? If not, what would it take?
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  1. It's not unheard of for prices to be increased for larger sizes.
    I get that the material costs are higher, and so generally I don't balk at it.

    However, if they are offering things like free shipping or other price incentives to buy, this is more than a little annoying.

  2. In this case, I think they did the right thing. I fail to see how larger sizes *in bras* make up that much of a difference in material costs.

    Pants, tops, those I know full well how going up a couple sizes can take up more fabric. The width of most fabrics, even for manufacturers, can only fit in so much and sometimes an item and inch wider has to be moved a good six inches to fit. Way more waste that way too.

    But not so much for bras.

    (*disclaimer: I've actually made my own clothes and undergarments.)

  3. Perhaps they did cave in too early. Since being pregnant, I have come to accept that maternity clothes and bras are more not only because of the extra fabric but also because their clothing machines and patterns only make to a certain size (unfortunately) and bigger or smaller sizes need special machinery and/ot patterns.

    It does totally suck though.

  4. Lex, Andrea and Mish, thanks for sharing your perspectives. I would have thought manufacturers amoritize the cost across a product line. Any size outside of average probably costs more to produce since fewer items are sold and the same amount of work goes into producing patterns etc. for each size.

    BTW, Andrea, your sewing talents sound quite impressive.



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