Big Fat Deal recently reported that Old Navy will soon stop stocking its plus-size line in stores, relegating those sizes to online ordering only. An article in the The San Jose Mercury News confirms it in a blurb halfway down the page, saying “final shipments of apparel in sizes 22, 24 and 26 will be sent out during the next few weeks.” (The article was written on April 28, 2007.) It also says Old Navy will “continue to carry women’s sizes 16 to 20 as part of their regular collection.”
Gap spokeswoman Robin Carr gave this rationale for the decision: “We really wanted to showcase the Plus collection and felt the best place to do that effectively was online…online is everywhere.” Which is probably the lamest excuse I’ve heard since that time I told myself Raspberry vodka was good for me because it contained fruit. If we follow Carr’s reasoning, why should Old Navy bother having stores at all? If online is everywhere and it provides the best showcase for your clothing, you could significantly reduce overheard by shutting down all your brick and mortar stores. Old Navy also faces significant competition online from retailers who specifically target overweight women, treat them with respect, and have a good understanding of how to fit and flatter a fatter figure. If I’m shopping online, I’d rather give my money to one of those retailers.
I don’t know if Old Navy hates fat people, but I do know that they are a corporation. Even if they do hate fat people, they love money more. They seem to be making this decision because it makes the most financial sense to them. I think they haven’t tried hard enough. As I understand it, Old Navy’s efforts to stock plus-sized clothing in their stores has always been half-assed. According to the Mercury News article “plus sizes have been carried since 2004 in only 175 of Old Navy’s 950 North American stores.” This probably explains why they haven’t been making a big profit in the big girl’s clothing division.
I understand that Old Navy has no responsibility to anyone to devote floor space, and thus money, to plus-size clothes in its store. But I find the decision to remove these sizes from their stores while still selling them online disrespectful to fat women. They are in essence saying, “We don’t want to see your fat asses in our stores, but we’ll still take your credit card information if we don’t have to look at your double chin.” If they are losing money on their plus-sized clothing, it would be more respectful to their overweight customers to determine why these items are not selling instead of ridding them from stores. Commenters on the Big Fat Deal post suggest that they need to use a variety of fit models to make better fitting clothes. They also need to put money into marketing the line so overweight women know the clothes are out there. If a line of clothes for thin women was not selling well, I doubt they’d stop selling clothes to thin people in stores. Instead they might look into it and realize, “These peasant skirts are so 15th century. Let’s try selling something that doesn’t make everyone look like hippies!”
While I love shopping online for a lot of things, I almost never buy clothing online because I never know if it will fit right. Even if I take measurements and refer to a sizing chart, I can still purchase shirts that choke my underarm flab or pants that give me camel toe. And I have to eat the shipping fees even if I return the items. This is true no matter what your size. If Old Navy doesn’t want to pursue the plus-sized fashion section, I would find it less insulting if they discontinued the line all together. At my largest, I felt embarrassed that I could only find pants large enough for me online. If you’re going to take big girls’ money, they are worthy of having floor space devoted to them to try things on.
I also dislike the message Old Navy’s decision might send to the fashion industry at large. Fashion is already a thin-prejudiced place. On the blogs I always see women wondering why there are not more plus-sized retailers when supposedly more than half the nation is overweight. Now clothing manufacturers might use Old Navy’s decision as an excuse to say, “See, fat clothes don’t sell! Stop bugging us about selling to you!” But in reality it’s bad-fitting, unmarketed, and poorly stocked clothing that is not selling.
If Old Navy can be convinced that there are fat women out there who want to buy their clothes, they might be swayed to reconsider this decision. If they realize that fat women do not appreciate being told they cannot shop in Old Navy’s stores in malls and shopping centers, but must hide their fat asses behind a computer screen to purchase clothing, maybe they’ll make a real effort to meet those customer’s demands. So, if you think Old Navy should continue stocking plus-sized clothes in their stores, let them know! I would suggest you be respectful though. Getting a hundred letters addressed to “Dear Soulless Corporation of Thin Nazis,” probably isn’t going to sway their decision. Old Navy’s contact information is listed below.
We’re fat, we’re here, and we want to buy you effing khakis.
Old Navy Customer Relations
200 Old Navy Lane
Grove City, OH 43123-8605