UK fashion retailer New Look faced fierce criticism for levying a supposed ‘fat tax’ after being spotted charging more for plus-size garments.
A shopper noticed a pair of plus-size plants on sale for £22.99, almost 15% more expensive than the advertised £19.99 for the same pair in standard sizes. Speaking to the UK’s Times, Maria Wassel, who’s also a retail supervisor, said, “It’s like being discriminated against for being plus-size when I’m only slightly bigger than average,” which in the UK is currently 16.
In a statement made to Sky News, the retailer committed to a pricing review, ensuring a structure that “works best for our customers and our business.” In the meantime, the issue set the Twitterverse ablaze, with several conflicting and pretty strongly held views on display.
Some went the old pragmatic route, arguing that more fabric means more cost, such as with food or drink:
There isn’t a #fattax at retailers such as #NewLook, if you’re a ‘plus size’ customer then more material has gone into making your trouser suit – simple economics says that that’s going to cost more to make than a size 10 set. So expect to pay more.
— Paul Simpson (@JP_Simpson) May 15, 2018
There are flaws in this logic, though. If that’s the case, why not a unique price for each and every size? A size 2 requires less fabric than a size 6, after all, yet they currently match in price.
I’m sorry but if your argument for the #newlook #fattax is that ‘more material costs more to make’ then all sizes 6-20 should by that logic also be different prices, not just those labelled ‘plus size’ -a term literally coined by society to divide people????
— zoë 🐝 (@zoetxstevin) May 15, 2018
Others pointed out this isn’t it quite how other clothing items are priced, either, with shoes of varying sizes sold for the same price:
If someone has size 5 shoes, they still pay the same as someone with size 8. If someone has a 27” leg length they still pay the same as someone with a 31”. That’s more material, so why pay more for a plus size clothing item when you don’t on other items? #newlook #FatTax
— Caitlin (@CaitlinRenouf3) May 15, 2018
The UK’s National Obesity Forum also waded in, with chariman Tam Fryman calling the move “entirely reasonable,” and possibly becoming an incentive for weight loss. While there may be something to his comments, it’s a slippery slope to policing people’s behaviours and creating a culture of judgment by fashion.
Which perhaps cuts to the heart of the issue. Is there a covert message implied by the move? People’s bodies vary for all sorts of reasons, as suggested by the tweet below, and having consumers absorb a price difference based on factors possibly beyond their control seems a little harsh.
— Helen Walmsley-J (@TheVintageYear) May 15, 2018
It’s by no means a simple issue. Thinner isn’t necessarily better — as we well know, a variety of factors make up a person’s overall size and health. But a price saving is a price saving, no matter how you slice it, so creating a monetary link — where being a lower size gives someone financial advantage — is perhaps something brands should avoid.