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McClatchy-Tribune  02/19/2014 12:15 PM ET
PacSun, Utah mom duel over 'indecent' T-shirts [The Orange County Register :: ]

Feb. 19--Anaheim-based PacSun and an outraged mom in Orem, Utah, are going to have to agree to disagree over fashion sense for teens.

Judy Cox and her 18-year-old son were shopping Saturday at the University Mall in Orem, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, when she saw "indecent" T-shirts for sale at the PacSun store. The shirts featured pictures of scantily dressed models in provocative poses.

Cox said she complained about the window display to a store manager and was told the T-shirts couldn't be taken down without approval from the corporate office. So Cox bought all 19 shirts in stock, for a total of $567. She says she plans to return them later, toward the end of the chain store's 60-day return period.

"These shirts clearly cross a boundary that is continually being pushed on our children in images on the Internet, television and when our families shop in the mall," Cox said in an email to The Associated Press.

PacSun wasn't backing down Tuesday.

According to Chief Executive Gary Schoenfeld, the company will continue to carry a variety of brands -- including ones that may be deemed provocative. "While customer feedback is important to us, we remain committed to the selection of brands and apparel available in our stores," he said in a statement to the Register.

Schoenfeld said PacSun takes pride in its products, which are inspired from a variety of influences including music, art, fashion and action sports.

"The result is a creative and diverse expression both in product and marketing," he said.

The reaction from Orem -- a city of about 90,000 in ultra-conservative Utah County that uses the motto "Family City USA" -- doesn't surprise industry analysts.

"This is something we've seen in the past with teen brands like Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch," said Betty Chen, an analyst with Mizuho Securities. "Once in a while, they run into this reaction ... but I don't think it was anything overtly intentional."

Chen added the Utah incident was unlikely to impact the company's performance, which is gaining traction because of a broader product strategy that involves carrying popular brands like Brandy Melville as well as private labels.?

PacSun's attempt to offer an edgier and more provocative selection is likely an effort to attract tougher-to-please teenagers, who are spending their money elsewhere.

"Teens are experiencing general spending fatigue across key categories, specifically fashion-related items," noted Steph Wissink, a senior analyst at Piper Jaffray, in a recent survey on teen spending.

The once-darling "triple A's" of the teen apparel market -- American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale -- have been plagued in recent months by plummeting sales and changes in leadership.

American Eagle CEO Robert Hanson unexpectedly quit in January; a few days later, Abercrombie stripped its CEO Mike Jeffries of his board chairmanship. Both presided over company stock values that fell by double digits last year. Aeropostale has reported losses for four straight quarters.


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