“The Retail Council is fed up. The burden of shoplifting across our nation has hit $40 billion this year. And today we have a strategy to slow it down, starting right here.”
It was another stinking hot day, another Wednesday press conference. This time located in a smallish clothing store in the mall near campus. Again, the air conditioning switched off.
This time, the woman at the front of the room was wearing a black string thong, and a matching bra, mostly see through. She was thirty-something, blonde and quite nicely-built. The glasses kept at least a little professional impression.
“The Council has collected mounds of data to understand the problem more clearly. Stores selling small items, like ours or jewellery stores, have a more serious problem than stores selling bigger items, like refrigerators. “ The clothing store was called “Thongs ‘n’ things.” “So our national lingerie and bathing suit chain has an incentive to lead.”
“My name is Maria Fenwick, and I’m the VP Marketing for this chain of 120 stores from coast to coast. But I’m here today because I saw the data showing that your town has the lowest rate of shoplifting in the country. Plus I noticed the anomaly that on Wednesdays shoplifting dropped to zero. And I wanted to find out what you were doing right so that we could copy it across the country.”
“Clearly, what’s unique about your town is that at least some people aren’t wearing very many clothes here. The students from the nearby campus in particular. And especially on Wednesdays, when they are doing their part to fight Global Warming .” The assembled reporters laughed as they started putting together the picture.
“It got us to thinking, that it’s clothes, and layering clothes, that make shoplifting possible. We need to take some radical steps to fight shoplifting, as we suspect that 25% of our potential profits are walking out the door nationally. So, starting today, we are taking the following imaginative steps, that we think will solve the shoplifting problem in our stores and may create some new interest in our chain. But we welcome other retailers to follow our lead.
“First, our chain coast-to-coast has decided to join the Global Warming Wednesday effort, starting now,“ reaching to unhook her bra-strap, cameras flashing as her twins were released.
“Secondly, we have decided to eliminate change rooms nationally. It’s in change rooms where shoplifting plots are hatched and bathing suits disappear under bulky outfits. If people want to try on our goods, let them do it out here. Without changerooms our stores will save floorspace and stop the shoplifting.” By now she had slipped off her little panties, but was partly behind the podium that carried her store logo.
“Third, we will continue studying your local approach and will make further adjustments as required. I’d be glad to take questions.”
“Ms Fenwick, doesn’t it seem a bit odd to be banning clothes in a clothes store? Who wants to buy underwear when that doesn’t seem to be in many women’s wardrobes around here?”
“Thank you, and we too have asked ourselves why sales haven’t been as strong at this outlet as we would have expected. We do have many customers from campus, as many students purchase sleepwear or swimwear or lingerie they take home for breaks. Plus we have fun clothes like crotchless panties and sell lots of little tops that conform with the Campus Code – because after all, the air conditioners and the clothes are fully off only on Wednesdays. “ Maria looked happy she turned a tough question into a selling message.
Another question from the back. “You mention students following the Campus Code as being one of reasons the shoplifting rate is low here. But when you announced your plan, other than the clothing optional Wednesdays, you’re silent about what customers wear. If people can stuff a little string thong into their jeans in the mall in Cincinnati, and you can’t inspect them, what’s to stop the shoplifting? Why not apply our Campus Code of Conduct, at least from Thursdays to Tuesdays? The Code would be perfect to give you the right to inspect for stolen goods walking out the door, but making it usually necessary because the Code encourages outfits short enough to see there is no layering. “ Some of the people in the room thought that was a pretty good question.
So did Maria. “Yes, layering makes shoplifting possible, and that’s why I said the third step of our plan was studying the local situation and making adjustments as necessary. We studied the Code and we came close to announcing today exactly what you proposed. However we understand that there is some controversy on campus over how punishment is levied for sexual arousal. In our stores, I wouldn’t want thousands of women to be unable to choose who to have sex with, and I’m unsure why a little sexual arousal every now and then can’t be tolerated. I understand the debate is continuing on campus, and if they manage to clean up their act, I could support extending their Code and seeing how it would work across the country.”
Maria smiled. “Are there no more questions? I thank you for joining us today for this important announcement. I believe that our approach will help revolutionize merchandising. When you think of it, changerooms are a vestige of earlier time. It’s the way that your local campus thinks about clothes, that encouraged us to think outside of the box. So it’s your town that’s taking the lead – let’s see where you take us.”
[to be continued]