For the past ten years graphic tees have been a staple in most tween, teens, and young adults closets. The college-aged students often shop at novelty shops like Spencer’s to purchase “adult- content” shirts or shirts that may be deemed offensive. However, most manufactures know better than to market and sell obscene or offensive material to tweens and teens, except JCPenney. This past week the company was bogged down with tweets, emails and phone calls about a young girls shirt that read “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.” The obviously sexist shirt was immediately pulled off of the website and a statement was issued from the company to ABC news. In the statement, JCPenney apologized by saying “We’re reaching out to our customers who are unhappy to apologize and to let them know that the T-shirt is no longer available.” The apology, which is drawing criticism itself, did not address the issue at hand, the inappropriate content. This apology read more like “I’m sorry if you were offended.” With such a blatant PR crisis, one must ask, why didn’t someone stop them before it came to this? It is clear that JCPenney had not completed market research on their clients or else they would have known that the young girls (aged 7-16) are not the ones with the purchasing power, rather the parents, mothers in most cases. Most mothers would not advocate the idea of passing work off because their daughter is “too pretty.” After reading this story I began to wonder. Retail makes up such a large percentage of our economy and trillions of dollars are spent on merchandise manufactured from these departments and national chain retail stores. That means that there were hundreds of millions of articles of clothing produced annually. Should PR professionals review all the merchandise before it is approved for production? Or should the corporations and manufacturers have common sense not to produce such tasteless garments? JCPenney has always seemed to position itself as a family store; one that has more of a “laid-back relaxing at home with the family” feel than a Fashion-Forward Macy’s or Southern Luxury Dillard’s. Going forward the PR professionals in charge of JCPenney should keep a closer eye on the merchandise that is released.
Moreover, what message does this send about the company as a whole and the values this company emulates within? The implications of this one little shirt speak to so many other ideals, which could be false, but if the public at large loses faith in a company and the values of that company the dollars they look to lose in the future could damage the company tremendously. One must wonder, during such a heavy shopping season, back-to-school, how will JCPenney fair for the rest of the season or the quarter for that matter? And how do the parents/kids who purchased this shirt feel? Will they return the shirt and ask for their money back? And why is it okay for a 20-something year old to wear a shirt that reads “Future Trophy Wife?” Do we unjustly assume that tweens and teens are not smart enough to differentiate the meanings of shirts from reality? Either way, the shirt was tasteless and never should have been on the market to begin with. Good luck recovering JCP… I used to love your Christmas catalogue as a kid!