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When Corissa Enneking walked into Forever 21 last week, she had high hopes for a good shopping trip. The massively popular chain is a favorite for those looking for on-trend pieces at drool-worthy prices and it has sold plus-sizes through its label Forever 21+ since 2009.
Enneking, the Midwest-based blogger behind Fat Girl Flow had purchased clothes from the store’s plus-size collection online recently but hadn’t been into one of their brick and mortar locations in a couple years.
Once she was there, however, she remembered why.
The store’s plus-size section seemed to be shoved in a corner and semi-forgotten by merchandisers and employees. As she explained in an open letter to the company on her blog, the rest of the Forever 21 store looked beautiful—only the plus-size section was messy, dimly lit and lacking in mirrors. She called the experience “horrifying.” Enneking wrote:
“Your entire store is lit with beautiful cool white lighting, and the floors are shiny little tiles of white and gold. There [are] accessories on walls, and little treasures to be found all over the place. So please, tell me why the sweet hell the tiny plus size corner is dimly lit with yellow lights, no mirrors, and zero accessories on the shelves. There were entire hanging racks with only hangers on them. No clothes. But of course there were no clothes hanging nicely on the walls…they were all collected into an even tinier corner of the itty bitty room, shoved onto racks that were haphazardly placed so close to one another that nobody could walk between them. … Your reckless disregard of fat people’s feelings is shameful. You have got to do better than this. We deserve better than this.”
This is not the only time Enneking has been disappointed by how stores treat their plus-size goods, and by extension, their plus-size shoppers. As she told the Daily Dot in an interview, “I often forget what a sad experience it is to shop in stores that carry both straight and plus-sizes, and my experience in the shop that day reminded me just how bad it is.”
When Enneking penned her open letter on Jan. 20, she hoped to make some noise. She did not, however, necessarily expect Forever 21 to respond. So when the company did write her back, she was admittedly a bit surprised and posted their note on her blog, too.
True, the retailer’s response is pretty brief and perhaps a bit self-serving (“We are … excited to announce that we have launched a @Forever21Plus Instagram profile to bring our most amazing content and new arrivals front and center.”), but they did take some responsibility for the poor experience Enneking had. The company wrote:
“We can assure you that this is not an accurate representation of our brand’s visual merchandising and view of any of our customers. We are investing greatly in our plus-size collection this year and are always trying to improve the assortment and merchandising.”
Enneking was surprised that Forever 21 responded at all and pleased it acknowledged her disappointment—but she’s reserving her complete approval for when the retailer takes serious action. “I am certain that no brand wants a bad response to their store or merchandising, but the impressive part will be if they actually improve upon the situation,” she said. “The store needs to actively work to make their plus-size sections more prominent.”
Crucially, Enneking noted, Forever 21 isn’t the only company that needs to make some changes. “I cannot think of a single store that carries both plus-sizes and straight sizes that makes me feel welcome and excited to shop in the plus-size section,” she said. “I’m sure they’re out there, but I haven’t encountered them.”
Until she has that shopping experience, she’s going to keep pushing for improvement. “I want stores to take plus-size consumers seriously,” she told the Daily Dot. “Our dollars are worth the effort. Understand our specific needs, show us that you’re listening to the plus-size community, work harder to bring us the products we want, and most importantly, understand the impact you have when you create spaces where consumers feel belittled or forgotten.”
In the meantime, Enneking wants to send a different message to the other plus-size consumers who, like her, often face disappointment when shopping. “No matter how many times we get shoved into dimly lit corners of stores, you never have to be ashamed of your body,” she said. “You are beautiful and you deserve to be able to express yourself through fashion just like every straight-sized person!”
Forever 21 had not responded to a request for comment by The Daily Dot at the time of publication.
Image via Instagram.com/Forever21