CATALOG CONTROVERSY RAGES ON AS MORE STATES CRITICIZE A&F

Byline: Vicki M. Young

NEW YORK — The flap over Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Naughty or Nice” catalog is moving from Michigan to Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.
Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood of Illinois is urging a consumer boycott of A&F over the retailer’s use of scantily clad models in its holiday catalog.
In a recent letter to editors, Wood wrote: “As a mother of young teens and a preteen, I am highly offended by Abercrombie & Fitch’s attempt to target young kids with images of sexuality that are simply not appropriate for an American clothing store catalog….It is time for concerned and responsible parents to take a stand and boycott firms that engage in such irresponsible marketing behavior.”
She continued: “What are Abercrombie & Fitch and their marketing gurus thinking? Do they really believe shrink-wrapping their catalogs and selling them for $6 a copy is going to excuse them from their obvious decision to target young teens and preteens with soft porn?”
As reported, Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm last month ordered A&F to stop selling its holiday catalog to minors. She sent a letter on Nov. 17 to Michael Jeffries, president of A&F, stating that the catalog was too sexually explicit for teens. Granholm gave A&F time to implement a policy barring the catalog’s sale to minors.
The catalog included an image of a nude model reclining atop a horse, a purported interview with a convicted sex offender posing as Santa Claus and an interview with a porn star.
A&F began requiring proper identification of customers who wanted to buy the catalog and who appear to be younger than 18. A company spokesman said Tuesday A&F now cards everyone who wants to buy the catalog, regardless of age.
“Big deal,” exclaimed Wood Tuesday. She said the policy was not enough because “the company isn’t fooling everybody into thinking that teens won’t see [the catalog].”
She said the point of her letter was to make parents and teens aware that they were being “manipulated when a successful company resorts to sexual images to entice the younger consumers into the stores.”
“It’s a matter of corporate responsibility, and maybe next year the company will market clothes, not sex,” Wood said.
The A&F spokesman acknowledged that teens with access to a credit card could still subscribe to the catalog from the company’s Web site.
“They’re required to verify [online] that they are over 18 years of age,” he said, but couldn’t provide details of how A&F could confirm that.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee got wind of the catalog controversy when a local group, the Washington County Republican Women, called attention to it.
“The governor believes that the catalog did exploit children for the purpose of [making a] profit. From what’s he’s seen [of the catalog], he feels that the company has crossed the line,” said a spokesman for Huckabee.
A&F could also face more legal troubles:
The Greene County prosecutor’s office in Missouri is investigating whether to seek an injunction to stop the sale of the catalog.
A spokeswoman for prosecutor Darrel Moore said he was investigating a grievance filed by a mother against A&F.

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