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The Gray Lady Knows its Readers May 28, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.

Yes, my local paper knows its audience. This story on the decision by Saks, Bloomie’s, and Neiman’s to cut back on stocking women’s petite sizes, is on the front page of the Sunday Times. Counter-intuitively, it’s equally high on the Website.

But wait, Times editors are right. The story is number one on the “most e-mailed” list. It doesn’t showed up in the top ten of “most blogged.” Not yet.

    But despite what executives say, overall sales of petite clothing sizes have grown in the past several years, reaching $10 billion. So petite women suspect another culprit: high-end department stores that they say view the petite consumer as older, unfashionable and undesirable.

    …Feeling overlooked and undervalued, they have written the stores angry letters and groused, often loudly, to salespeople. “It’s horrible, just horrible,” said Laurel Bernstein, 60, a 5-foot-1 Manhattan resident who stormed out of Saks’s flagship store in March after learning that the company had stopped carrying petite sizes. A lifelong Saks shopper, she has not returned since.

Times readers American women didn’t get any bigger.

    What did change is that petite departments gained a reputation for traditional — some would say frumpy — career-oriented clothing. Chic looks, clothing executives said, never made the leap from regular sizes to petite. So the very word petite became synonymous with many women who shopped there — working women over the age 50.

    …But for women of a certain height, a certain age (45 and older) and a certain rung on the economic ladder (that is, wealthy), no amount of size two skirts or dresses will replace the original, spacious petite departments at Neiman’s, Saks or Bloomingdale’s.

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