Target, the nation’s second largest department store, is still reeling from the recent massive breach of customer information. But that hasn’t stopped the Minnesota-based company from stepping on a second land mine that may ultimately prove more embarrassing, if the pattern continues. According to the Huffington Post and several other news sources, Target was caught last week using a skinny model—who is pregnant—for its plus size Merona clothing line, rather than a plus size model. This is the second time in a year that the retailer has gotten its plump hand stuck in the cookie jar. In April, the company had to apologize for advertising its plus size kimono as “manatee gray“.
Target has painstakingly built its brand as the more ethical and socially conscious alternative to Wal-Mart. Its hip product designs and corporate giving programs (well-calibrated to win the affections of the educated suburbanite), have propelled it past K-Mart and Sears. Target’s shoppers are younger, wealthier, and better educated than those of Wal-Mart or K-Mart. But it is still a discount department store without pretensions of competing with Abercrombie & Fitch for the affluent teen-hottie demographic; so it was an unforced error to hire an under-sized fashion model in her second trimester to pose as a plus size woman. (Abercrombie, of course, has had its own corpulence controversy.) Target has made no attempt to justify it. An awkward company statement given to the HuffPost said it was a mistake stemming from “a garment at a photo shoot being mislabeled” and calling it “an unfortunate oversight.” Of course, Target is not the only major American retailer to show a bias against plus-sized women in its marketing. But if Target’s misfires continue, it may learn that its customer base (59% college-educated, 76% women) will find the mark elsewhere. // Michael Adelberg
(photo: Plus Model Magazine cover, January 2014)