Thursday, 15 August 2013

Fenwick's reply missed the point, don't you think? (and a reply)

A friend has eloquently said, “The iconography of bottles to signify babies is so ingrained that they cannot see what they have done.”

Hi Yolanda,

Thanks for your email and I was sorry to read that we had disappointed you with our current window display and note your comments on the blue v pink debate.

Please be reassured that this particular window display, due to be changed next Tuesday for our Home Event window to go in, is merely a play on the phrase 'new deliveries' and was not intended to have any deeper message. It was merely planned to coincide with the arrival of the new fashion lines for the Autumn season.

Our window displays are a prominent feature in the city centre and I accept that they will attract differing views and varying levels of attention and on occasion some criticism. However we always strive to learn from all feedback and we will bear yours in mind at the next meeting of our Visual Merchandising and Fashion teams.

As regards the blue and pink debate, I walked the floor yesterday on our Toy Department and I honestly believe that we are not necessarily one way or another. For instance we have signs saying 'dress up' and another saying 'action toys' and if you would like to I would happily meet with you when you are next in store to do another floor walk.

Once again, I would like to thank you for providing your views and also apologise that the window has offended you, as this was certainly not our intention.

If you do want to meet with me please contact me via the main switchboard on 0191 232 5100 and we can arrange a mutually convenient appointment.

Kind regards,


Philip Davidson
Customer Service Manager
Fenwick Ltd.
39 Northumberland Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 1AR

and my second reply, trying again

Thank you for your amicable and considered reply.
I do also understand and agree that there was no deeper meaning intended and therein lies a part of my concern which is that unintended messages, as I acknowledged in my first letter, is the main concern about this display window.  
I am also taking three points away from your letter.     The first point is that the display remains in place until it is due to be changed on the store's normal updating rota, which is a disappointment.  

The second point I take is that you have not yet considered putting up breastfeeding friendly stickers in the store.  I know this is not something you yourself can do in isolation but acknowledgement of the idea and that it would be further discussed among management would have been reassuring.

The third point is the big and most important one however.  I note that the main thrust of your letter was assuring me that your store does not gender code the toys and that labeling in the toy department reflects this.  I assure you that there is never any concern on my part about the toy department. 

The third and main concern is solely with your window display, as the body of my letter shows.  Your reply failed to acknowledge that the bottles in the show window are problematic imagery for the general public.  I am sure you are well aware that there is a global awareness and concern that the thinness of fashion models do not reflect what are normal body types for young women.  This problem of perception is exacerbated by photo editing techniques which actually enhance thinness while erasing physical flaws.  Thousands of men and women also complain that shop models are too thin. This complaint about the bottle images is a similar argument - that large companies have a social responsibility for influencing the perceptions of normal within the society. Major retail outlets and the media (your shop window is a type of media) don't follow the abiding culture, they influence it! Fenwick's has clout and as such should be sending out healthier messages to their customers and to random passers-by along Northumberland Street is a something to take seriously.

In 2010, 59% of mothers in Newcastle breastfed their babies shortly after giving birth, compared with the national average of 81% for the same year. Six or eight weeks, later only 41% of babies in the North East is receiving any breastmilk at all.    In addition, a survey by the NCT showed that 90% of women who stopped in the first six weeks said that they stopped sooner than they would have liked.   

This above statistics show that women want to breastfeed and were the messages, intended or unintended, telling them that they are supported then more would stick to it for longer. Hence this is why a more breastfeeding welcome culture in Fenwick's would bring in customers and they would stay longer and spend more money.

Really in the big picture, it isn't ultimately about the display window.  Though I still wish the display could be altered if not taken down before Tuesday.  It is really about making your shop a more breastfeeding friendly place.  I welcome your offer of meeting you in store but rather to share ideas about to make Fenwick's more breastfeeding friendly in the future, not for a tour.  

I must say now that I am in no way offended by the display and thanks for your concern.  Instead I am articulating something on behalf of many women who have been told by friends, family, and health care professionals to 'give the baby a bottle' for whatever multitude of reasons.   They then turn on the television, open a magazine or walk down the high street and see feeding bottles instead of breastfeeding, the default method of feeding a baby. It is hard and lonely when no one around shares your experience and it influences women's decisions to give up. 

Thank you again for your timely and considered response.  I welcome the continued dialogue and hope to hear from you again soon.

Kind regards
the Rabbit in the Moon
Mam of 2

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