What the hell is going on with high-street shopping?
I spent 3 hours, in a major shopping center (Lakeside) hunting for maternity-wear today, and found precisely feck-all! Everywhere I asked (and was able to find someone to ask), I was told flippantly that they no longer stocked it and it ‘was ALL online now‘ (as if I was an idiot for even asking such a question) and had I tried such-and-such (a list of places I have looked, today and in the past, is below). Basically everywhere I asked suggested everywhere else that once sold maternity or sells ‘plus size‘ clothing. How ignorant of me to go into a ladieswear department store and expect to find at least a few attractive items that would accommodate the bump without the rest of me looking like I was wearing a shapeless sack, as right now I would probably need an 18/20! I have tried everywhere. The one place I know that does stock it is H&M. It’s very comfortable but it’s all casual daytime wear and not at all what I was after. I did try Mothercare last week: I looked at the prices and walked back out of the shop.
You might be wondering what my issue over buying clothes online is. In short, I have three general qualms against buying clothes online. Firstly you cannot try anything on to make sure they fit before ordering. Second, you can’t properly judge the colour, cut etc. Thirdly you can’t check fabric quality or make sure there are no flaws in the garment. I like to see exactly what am buying and try it on before I buy it, when it comes to clothes. Every time I have ordered online or from a catalogue in the past – and this is ordinary clothing, mind you- it has turned out to be too small, or short, the wrong colour, a horrible fabric, not suited me, or been or faulty and I have ended up sending it back. It’s a waste of time, money and effort, and I resent it being made my only sodding option. In the meantime I noticed that the vast ‘Petite’ ranges (for short, skinny women) were conspicuously devoid of patrons.
Is there some rule that’s been thought up in the last couple of years, which means that in my gravid state I am somehow meant to either be housebound or otherwise incapable of buying clothes from a shop? There appears to have been some ignorant assumption that pregnant women don’t get to/want to look nice, or care about our appearance so why on earth would we want to be able to go shopping? They also seem to be labouring under the assumption that everyone has a computer at home and has internet access and that I was able to just drive off to here there and everywhere. They didn’t even ask if I could: I don’t drive, but that is a different story. In short these clothing retailers are making gigantic arses out of themselves in several ways (but then again, what am I doing trying to buy clothing that fits, if I don’t have those ‘basic’ utilities at my immediate disposal). I don’t know what has prompted these major stores to decide move all of their maternity wear to cyberspace instead of, you know, allowing women to decide how they choose and purchase clothing, but I intend to bloody well find out and will be drafting a snotty letter to each of the stores that just sent me elsewhere (in the ‘we don’t want your kind here‘ tone) and I will be sending them by post and recorded delivery to, so they cannot deny I have written to them. I will advise you all of their replies.
Wall of Shame (all major High-Street chains)
- Evans (Arcadia group)
- Marks and Spencer
- Dorothy Perkins (Arcadia group)
- TOP SHOP (Arcadia group)
- House of Fraser
- All Saints
Wednesday 14th November 2012: Cop-out response received…
Friday 23rd November: other replies from Debenhams, Next and M&S
Update: Saturday 1st December 2012
Second cop-out response from M&S received. Note how they have specifically failed to answer my question about how many women work on their ‘womenswear team’ and of that proportion have children. BBC watchdog here I come!
Update 5th December 2012
Total cop-out response from Next. I will scan the email later but will paste it as a quote for now. The complete dismissal of customer needs in favour of their bottom lines is more than apparent. I think we now nee to look into the realms of campaigning to have these retailers charged with breaching anti discrimination legislation and making it compulsory that if they sell maternity wear, they must keep it in their stores and any further discontinuation of said ranges should result in prosecution.
The excuse that there is no demand, is a complete fallacy. The demand for affordable and accessible maternity wear will only stop when women in the UK stop having babies. There IS a huge ‘gap in the market’ which they have created because they care more about their profits than their customers, and even their staff which they are prepared to blame for decisions made far above them, which is shown clearly in the depressingly similar responses I have had to my correspondence, that is when they bothered to answer at all.
Out of the 11 letters I sent, I have received responses from 4. However non-committal, and unsatisfactory the responses I got were M&S, Next, River Island and Debenhams did at least bothered to acknowledge my complaints. The rest have totally ignored me. It’s time they were made to wake up to the fact that while they may be a business but they also have social obligations, Just as nursing mothers have a right to breastfeed our children without being harassed, expectant mothers have a right to purchase our clothes in shops or any way we chose. By moving those ranges to on-line stores and out of sight of other customers, retailers have discriminated against pregnant women in favour of making a few extra £s.
I say enough. We have done nothing to deserve being ostracised by default, and it is time they had their cages thoroughly rattled.
Email from Next
05 December 2012
Our Ref: CRN/082580-12/FM
Dear Mrs Johnstone,
Thank you again for contacting us, and discussing things with me personally – it’s really appreciated.
As you know, I forwarded your letter on to our Retail Sales Director, who was equally concerned to hear you’ve been left feeling disappointed.
She’s explained that unfortunately, it’s difficult to maintain a good representation of all our ranges in our stores, due to the lack of space for display and storage. So we’ve taken the decision to withdraw Maternity wear from our stores and offer this range on line only, in common with many other High Street retailers.
Please be assured, this wasn’t a decision that was made lightly – but we are sometimes faced with the challenge of making difficult choices with regard to the allocation of stock in our stores. We appreciate this may be disappointing for some customers, but we felt that by having all the stock in one central location, we would be better able to satisfy customer demand.
Staff in store can (and should) offer to order any items which aren’t available ‘off the shelf’, subject to stock availability. There’s no additional charge when customers opt to collect from store, if they are happy to wait a few days, or they can have next day delivery to store for £2.99. Orders placed in store can also be delivered direct to a home address (in most cases next day), for a small charge. I know this means you’re buying before trying, but our returns procedure for unsuitable items is very straightforward. Alternatively, Next Directory customers with credit accounts can also order almost anything we do, on-line or by phone, from the comfort of their own homes, on approval.
As discussed, if you’d like to let me know the item numbers and sizes required of any items you’d like to try on (as I know you have a party coming up), I’ll be more than happy to order them in to a store of your choice for you to look at and try on. Of course you can always call with these details – and my direct number is 0116 2388682. I’ll be happy to call you straight back, or alternatively you can reply by email at the address given below. And please quote our reference number when getting in touch.
Everyone at Next wants shopping with us to be a pleasure. So we appreciate when customers let us know if they think we’ve ignored a particular need. I’m glad you shared your concerns and you can be sure we will bear these in mind, as we continue to review the performance of our Maternitywear range going forward.
On a more personal note, may I wish you all the best for the remainder of your pregnancy.
With kind regards,
Complaint Resolution Management Team, Retail
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