My daughter bought a Hollister T shirt yesterday, in your White City Westfield store. Slipped into the bag was a card promoting money off Gilly Hicks underwear and swimwear. Specifically this promotion aimed at the “Gilly Hicks girl” was giving a discount on, “push ’em up bras”. My daughter was out shopping as a treat for her 12th birthday. She was dressed like a 12 year old, was wearing no make up and was with a group of 12 year old friends.
Can you tell me please, at what point in your marketing strategy meeting, did promoting breast enhancing underwear, to children, seem like an appropriate idea? And exactly how many people in that marketing meeting have children my daughter’s age? I know as a company, you have hit retail gold with your stable of bands that are currently “in”, allowing you to charge exorbitant prices for fairly standard goods, but I think you have some responsibility not to add to the increasing sexualisation of children. (You might say that Gilly Hicks is aimed at women, but by referring to the Gilly Hicks “Girl” and stocking tiny sizes I would hazard that the majority of your customers are adolescents.)
You may well respond that you are merely a retail company and social ills have nothing to do with you, but maybe you would stop to consider a few facts? Are you aware for example that 17% (almost one fifth) of children aged 11-17 in England and Wales have experienced sexual abuse? Or that 32% of all sexual crimes and 37% of rapes in the same year were committed against children under the age of 16?. Take a minute to digest those figures. Sexual abuse does not happen to a tiny minority, it is a real life experience for thousands of children with devastating consequences on the rest of the victim’s life. Even where sex is consensual between adolescents there is evidence that they feel pushed into it before they are ready. A recent survey of teenagers by the BBC found that 78% believed their age group should not be sexually active, and 63% said they wished they had waited longer before becoming sexually active.
Your marketing initiative suggests to girls like my daughter that they should be aping women who have passed through puberty and adolescence and can make their own informed decisions about sex. You are contributing to a social norm where children are encouraged to display a sexuality they cannot understand and it is irresponsible and inappropriate.
If you are minded to reply to me, I would ask you instead to make a donation to the NSPCC.