Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 25th 2014 Contents MAY 25 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
CASE STUDY | SBG13
The following guide is
intended to aid readers
in analysing the case
Stellars Fashion Boutique.
When analysing a case,
remember that there are
many possible approach-
es and solutions and the goal is to develop
your analytical and problem-solving skills
rather than figure out "the one right answer."
A comment by boutique owner Ryan
Charles in a newspaper article that he is
not interested in catering to the plus-size
segment of the market because obese is
not an image he wants for his store has
generated a firestorm of criticism.
People perceived that Ryan was prejudiced
against plus-sized individuals and an online
campaign has started to force the company
to change its current policy. The lukewarm
response by Ryan to the criticism on the
store s Facebook page has fuelled further
anger and sales have been negatively affected
by the controversy.
Q1. Why did Ryan s comments trigger
the response that it did?
The backlash against Ryan s comment
has in large part resulted from society s
growing recognition that the stigma asso-
ciated with obesity is a very real form of
discrimination that has been encouraged
or facilitated by the fashion industry.
Many people, some of whom may be
customers of the boutique, struggle with
issues related to body image and feelings
of inadequacy when compared to the mod-
els that are used to showcase designer cloth-
ing. Ryan s comment would thus have res-
onated with a wide cross section of the
public who would have interpreted the
remark as a personal attack on their sense
of identity and self worth.
The rise of social media has also played
a significant part in both informing the
public about the controversial comment
and empowering consumers to ventilate
their anger at the stance taken by the bou-
tique s owner.
In the past, individual anger would have
resulted in a limited localised response that
could have more easily been ignored by the
company. Social media however, allows
comments such as the one made by Ryan
to go viral and for consumers to rapidly
disseminate negative word-of-mouth.
Q2. How should the company have
responded to this crisis?
In analysing the company s response we
need to consider both the timeliness of the
response and the nature of the response
itself. Ryan s decision not to respond to the
initial criticism may have been an attempt
to avoid adding further fuel to the fire.
This delay, however, only served to rein-
force the belief that the owner did not care
about his customers or what they thought
and increased the level of animosity directed
at the company.
A more timely response could have served
to defuse the anger and limited the fallout
from the comment.
The statement issued by the owner on
Facebook also left a lot to be desired and
likely made the crisis worse.
Rather than addressing the issue head
on and issuing a heartfelt apology, the state-
ment attempted to deflect blame away from
Ryan and was very general in nature. The
statement therefore failed to express any
remorse for the comment, which is what
members of the public would justifiably
have been expecting.
Appearing on a morning show and issuing
a genuine statement of regret over the com-
ment would have been a more effective
response than issuing an impersonal "non-
apology" on Facebook.
Q3. What strategy should Stellars
Fashion Boutique adopt to respond to
One of the options that Ryan needs to
consider in order to restore the boutique s
brand image is adding plus sizes to the cur-
rent clothing line.
Adding plus sizes would signal to critics
that the company is responding to their
concerns and change the view that the
company is discriminatory. The boutique
could also see an increase in sales as it tar-
gets an additional segment with considerable
purchasing power that it has previously
Starting a campaign that focuses on con-
sumer s inner beauty despite their physical
appearance can move the discussion to a
broader issue and broaden the boutique s
appeal to the mass market.
Changing the current strategy may, how-
ever, have several undesired effects that
need to be considered.
Adding plus sizes may potentially alienate
current consumers who are attracted to the
exclusivity of the boutique s offerings. This
feeling of exclusivity and the knowledge
that Ryan s designs are only available to a
select elite in society is what has accounted
in part for the company s success thus far.
Adding additional sizes may also drive up
the cost of manufacturing since more mate-
rial and time is needed to produce plus
Finally, an unintended consequence of
adding plus sizes is that the business could
be criticised for promoting obesity and
unhealthy lifestyles. One could argue that
making overweight the new "normal" is
actually blinding people to the negative
effects of obesity.
Given the negative attention that his
comment has attracted, Ryan needs to
give serious consideration to lowering his
profile at the boutique.
If Ryan chooses to focus on the creative
side of the business and appoints a man-
Stellars Fashion Boutique
Overcoming bad publicity
ager to be the visible face of boutique he would
remove an obvious target for critics to focus
their anger on and this may help defuse the
crisis. In many ways however, Ryan and the
boutique are intertwined in the minds of poten-
tial consumers and his presence is what makes
the brand so attractive. If he chooses to lower
his profile, customers may question whether
they would get the same quality of clothing
and the reputation of the boutique could be
Apart from issuing an apology, the boutique
could also partner with an NGO to deal with
issues related to bullying and negative stereo-
typing. This could include posting videos on
its Facebook page and sponsoring speakers to
reach out to children in schools who might be
negatively affected by obesity.
Such actions would clearly demonstrate the
company s stance against discrimination without
requiring it to change its clothing line. Eventually,
this commitment to reduce stereotyping could
reposition the boutique and allow the contro-
versy to fade as Ryan initially hoped.
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