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August 8, 2008

Marks & Spencer overcharging women for larger bust size


Several months ago...

Beckie Williams, a 35-year-old children's author from Brighton, England, discovered that Marks & Spencer (Britain's number-one lingerie and fashion retailer) was overcharging women for a D cup bra by $4 compared to identical bras that were C or B cup.

Williams responded to this discrimination of busty women by launching a nationwide protest against what she calls "big boob injustice."

"We want good value big bras readily available, it's as simple as that," she says.

Along with a friend, Williams created the Facebook group "Busts 4 Justice" demanding equal pricing for larger bras. The Facebook group has since become a runaway support movement for large breasted women.

Marks & Spencer, responded initially that larger bras were a specialty item that demanded a higher price. The average bra size sold in Britain is 36C (although this could be because many women can't find a quality D cup bra). It also said its products are still cheaper than those of high-end retailers that cater to larger women.

Williams' take on the company's response: "They basically told us, `Tough titties, go away.'"

Ten years ago, the average bra size sold in the United Kingdom was 34B. Since 2003, the demand for bra sizes DD and bigger is up 30 per cent.

What Marks & Spencer apparently saw as only two women complaining has ballooned to more than 7,000 angry customers boycotting their large lingerie departments and a firestorm of publicity over the issue.

According to a retail survey Marks & Spencer sells half of all the underwear bought in Britain.

If bigger bras require more material and take more labour, Williams said, then similar pricing policies should be in place for all clothing, not just bras. Also, why are they overcharging bras for thin women with large breasts (ie. 34D), the same as overweight women with enormous breasts (ie. 40DD) which uses considerably more fabric?

"And women have big boobs even if they are not overweight. It is not something we have any say in," says Williams.

Other retailers have announced they are coming to the rescue, with the U.K. branch of La Senza telling customers they do not charge extra for bigger bras.

"At La Senza, our motto is `One price fits all,'" said Lisa Bond, the company's U.K. spokesperson. "We don't believe that just because you wear a bigger size bra, you should pay more for it."

The chain has even offered a 10 per cent discount to Busts 4 Justice supporters.

HOWEVER La Senza's Canadian operations does overcharge for bras in the D and DD range in Canada. La Senza representatives in Montreal had no comment.

So will the protest spread to Canadian women and demand equal pricing?

The History of the Bra

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