Fast fashion retailer Primark ran afoul of ad industry guidelines by displaying children's clothing emblazoned with sexist messages, according to a self-regulatory watchdog.
The decision marks the first time the BBB National Programs Children's Advertising Review Unit has enforced 2021 guidelines that require ads not “portray or encourage negative social stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination.”
"CARU’s own review of advertising on the company’s website and social media pages demonstrated that most of Primark’s boys’ and girls’ clothes contained slogans representing gendered, negative stereotypes," the watchdog said.
Earlier this year, the Dublin-based fashion retailer faced bad press in the U.K. over the clothes, which carried different messages for boys than girls.
The shirts presented online as “girls clothes” were emblazoned with sayings such as “Be Kind, Be Happy,” “Kindness always wins,” “Always Perfect,” “Grateful, humble and optimistic,” and “Be good, do good.”
The shirts categorized as “boys clothes” had messages like "Change the game,” “Born to win,” “Power,” “Champion,” “Total Icon,” and “Awesome Adventures.”
The clothing was displayed on Primark's website and social media pages, and was available in 16 U.S. stores and 100 stores worldwide.
“Primark’s separate lines of message T-shirts advertised to girls and boys create a dichotomous world of goals and attributes -- those appropriate for girls and those appropriate for boys,” the watchdog said. “Specifically, the clothing designed for and advertised to girls encourages girls to be perfect, good, kind, happy, optimistic, humble, and grateful. In contrast, the clothing advertised to boys contains slogans inspiring boys to be ambitious, active, adventurous, and to win.”
Primark argued the Children's Advertising Review Unit lacked jurisdiction over the T-shirts, contending that the clothing itself isn't advertising.
The watchdog disagreed, writing that the phrases on the shirts “are indeed commercial messages whose purpose is to promote the sale of the clothing.”
Primark said it has taken steps to address the self-regulatory group's concerns, including undertaking an internal review of the development and promotion of children's clothing, according to the opinion.