Lands’ End Steinem Debacle Loses Customers Left and Right

By Dustin Siggins Published on March 1, 2016

Customers on the political left and right are abandoning clothing company Lands’ End after its spring catalog featured an interview with radical abortion activist Gloria Steinem juxtaposed with a cover showing families on Easter. She was featured as part of the company’s new “Legend series” — described as “our ode to individuals who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large. We honor them and thank them for paving the way for the many who follow.”

Within 24 hours of seeing — originally broken by Life News and The Stream — the company quickly issued an apology and scrubbed the interview from its website. At least two pro-life institutions and many individuals declared they would no longer do business with Lands’ End, resulting in revenue losses of tens of thousands of dollars.

And then things got worse for the company. The apology and scrub drew anger from supporters of abortion in the media and on Twitter, and more lost business.

Although Lands’ End retracted the interview six days ago, the company still has not responded to The Stream‘s multiple requests for comment as to whether its donations to the ERA Coalition’s Fund for Women’s Equality organization were halted, as has been reported by the pro-abortion feminist website

While the interview did not explicitly discuss abortion, Steinem has long been one of the leading pro-choice voices in the United States. She is infamous for dedicating her most recent book to the abortionist who illegally ended the life of her unborn child nearly 60 years ago. She has also declared that the pope is responsible for global warming because of the Church’s opposition to contraception and abortion.

Conservatives Make Statements with Their Dollars

On social media and elsewhere, social conservatives told Lands’ End its interview was a huge mistake — one that would cost it business.

“In your short tenure as CEO, it is clear to me that you do not know who your customer base is yet — but allow me to tell you about one who has spent more than $150,000 in your uniform division,” said College of the Ozarks Vice President of Cultural Affairs Dr. Sue Head in a letter to Lands’ End CEO Federica Marchionni. The college would not support Lands’ End’s “clearly leftist, pro-abortion agenda” by continuing to buy its products for its on-campus K-12 school.

Head told The Stream that the company’s quick reversal “has no impact” on the decision. “It’s a little late,” she said, “mainly because that this campaign has been in the works for months. It’s not like they thought of this last week and quickly did it. It’s part of their strategy, and so our trust factor right now with Lands’ End is very low.”

The College of the Ozarks wasn’t alone in ditching Lands’ End. Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia, Missouri, told parents in a Facebook post that “Gloria Steinem has been a vocal and consistent advocate for abortion rights for several decades. She has spoken of women’s ‘need’ for abortion, and has referred to it as a ‘sacrament.'”

We believe unequivocally that all life is sacred, from conception until natural death. It would be contrary to our school’s very identity to support a company who celebrates the work of someone so opposed to our beliefs, a company who is conducting a campaign “in honor of her work.” For this reason, Lands’ End is no longer an official uniform provider for Fr. Tolton Catholic High School.

Pro-life women excoriated the interview in comments to The Stream. “It’s jarring for an interview with a radical sexual liberation advocate to appear in a spring family clothing catalog. Especially given the front cover image of a traditional family gathering with children happily examining their Easter baskets,” said Regnery Publishing Senior Managing Editor Maria Ruhl.

Both Head and Institute on Religion and Democracy Director of Evangelical Outreach Chelsen Vicari said that there was no reason for Lands’ End to insert itself into the fight over abortion — on either side of the issue. “Corporations have no business in the culture wars,” said Vicari. “Moms and dads shopping for their kids’ school clothes aren’t interested in Lands’ End sprinkling their catalogues with culture war arguments from either side of the debate. They simply want the company to sell them clothes.”

Head simply told The Stream that she was “mystified as to why a longtime clothier would choose to make a political statement in their clothing catalog.”

They Thought It was a Good Idea

Individual customers made their displeasure known, with comments made on social media and on news and commentary websites featuring pro-life customers who said they would no longer shop at Lands’ End. The reactions led to a formal apology from Lands’ End, issued to The Stream and other media outlets, as well as the scrubbing of the interview on the website, within 24 hours of the grassroots uprising last week.

“We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality,” said the statement. “We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize. Our goal was to feature individuals with different interests and backgrounds that have made a difference for our new Legends Series, not to take any political or religious stance.”

In another statement, posted on its Facebook page, Lands’ End said it “is committed to providing our loyal customers and their families with stylish, affordable, well-made clothing. We greatly respect and appreciate the passion people have for our brand. It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue, so when some of our customers saw a recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense.”

Liberals Now Upset as Well

“Land’s End reacted to this issue as any business that wants to stay in business would when confronted with a clear statement from their consumer base,” public relations and branding consultant Marana Moore told The Stream about the apologies from Lands’ End. “They made an adjustment.”

But while that “adjustment” was clearly designed to stem the tide of conservative outrage, it opened a Pandora’s Box for abortion advocates infuriated that the company would back off its interview with the controversial “feminist icon.” A writer for Forbes‘ blog noted that “the company “faces backlash” for its apology. “While the anti-Steinem backlash was swift, the customers now upset by the Lands’ End apology and actions could outnumber the naysayers.”

“Lands’ End: Sorry about that whole Gloria Steinem, women-are-equal thing” screamed a headline in the Chicago Tribune. Lands’ End “caves,” reported Huffington Post in an article. “Apparently, equal rights for women are not part of the “All American” values that family-oriented clothing brand Lands’ End stands for,” opened an opinion piece on Cosmopolitan‘s website, as a Los Angeles Times op-ed was headlined “Corporate cowardice? Lands’ End gives in to anti-abortion freakout over Gloria Steinem.”

The reaction didn’t stop there. The comments section below the company’s latest statement has gotten over 10,000 comments since it was published last week — including many who declared they weren’t going to buy any more clothes from Lands’ End because they published the interview, and many who declared they weren’t going to buy any more clothes from the company because it retracted the interview. Lands’ End has lost their business.

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