It’s been another harsh winter for the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, for whom the phrase “can’t do right for doing wrong” seems to have been invented. Earlier this month, Marc Bolland had to explain a drop in clothing sales (a too-warm autumn), and now the firm’s children’s clothes have annoyed parents. So, I’ve been trying to help. Well, anything for a national institution.
The latest spot of bother came about after parents noticed a great new range of T-shirts, covered in dinosaurs, made with the Natural History Museum… and stocked only in the “boys” section. It’s only a year since M&S bowed to consumer pressure and agreed to stop segregating toys by gender, and already they’re trying to put children back in blue and pink boxes.
In an open letter to M&S Kidswear, a campaign group called Let Clothes Be Clothes explained the problems: high heels (up to 6cm) on shoes for girls; rubbish pockets on girls’ clothes; padded and underwired training bras; crop tops (only for girls) and the really boring separation of clothes into “boys” (practical, warm, multicoloured) and “girls” (scratchy and pink).
This is important because children want to fit in, particularly when it comes to perceived gender roles. And because asking a five-year-old to play in high heels and a crop top is just mean. Many shops do it, however, because if brothers and sisters can’t share, then parents have to buy twice as many clothes.
The good news is that both the Natural History Museum and M&S were very concerned when they heard about this unfortunate sexism and both plan to do something about it. The Natural History Museum said that it “will… work with [Marks & Spencer] to ensure the range is accessible to all children”, while M&S said: “Our design team is working with the Natural History Museum on expanding the range to include products for girls.”
That’s where I come in. On Friday morning, I went to my local M&S and expanded some of their ranges for them. Unfortunately, there were no dinosaur T-shirts in stock, but I did find some brilliant tops marked “bug expert” in the “boys” section, and moved half of them into “girls”. In return, I moved some sparkly crop tops marked “play it cool” into the “boys” aisle. I also liberated Hello Kitty from her pink ghetto for a house swap with Thomas the Tank Engine, and reunited Peppa Pig and her brother George. Hey presto: now the ranges are accessible to all children and include products “for girls”.
I told Marks & Spencer’s corporate press office about my genius solution, and they replied: “… we offer a wide choice in a range of styles and colours… our store layouts reflect the way our customers like to shop....” If you disagree, join me in setting free some dinosaurs. In the meantime, you’re welcome, Mr Bolland. I’ll take my bonus in cash, not shares, thanks.Reuse content