Fast Company

Their Wallets and Their Mouths Aren't that Small...

Was Randy Newman right after all? It sure seems that way, to read Sunday's New York Times piece (subscription required) bemoaning the downsizing of petite departments in stores all over America. To hear the manufacturers tell it, the petites just aren't generating enough business to justify their existence anymore.

But America's vertically challenged women aren't taking this lying down. (Or standing up). The story is one of the NYT's most emailed, along with the usual political subjeccts, and today's letters to the editor section is filled with outraged women, including one 75 year old who wonders what kind of plastic surgery she'll need to shop in the girls' department.

I come from a petite family, where my 5'4 1/2" build makes me a relative giantess, but I can still empathize. The real point, however, is a broader one: for all the talk of mass customization in such areas as music, cars, etc., it's still largely a web phenomenon. The "mass" appeal businesses such as fast food and much retail still must cater to, well, the masses for their survival. The fact that many petites must now surf the web for their clothes without being able to try them on, while inconvenient for them, seems more likely to hasten the demise of the department store than anything else. As one husband wrote the Times, "For those of us with petite wives (not junior wives), this policy will translate into fewer trips to Bloomingdale's, Saks and Neiman Marcus for us in the future." Short-sighted, no?


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