Forever 21

Plus Size? Forever 21 Sends Atkins Bars

In business, we call this cross-brand marketing. We also call it stupid. Forever 21 has been sending out Atkins diet bars to customers who order from its plus-size clothing collection. In a culture where diet has become a four-letter word, this is not smart.

Simmering on Twitter for a Week

This misadventure simmered on twitter for about a week. Then it boiled over yesterday and Forever 21 had to apologize. Thick-headed guys didn’t get it. “Hey, it’s free stuff,” was their head-scratching response. Tracy Clark-Flory explained the problem on Jezebel concisely:

To receive an unsolicited diet bar isn’t just an insult; it’s a potentially dangerous invitation to question and critique oneself. That is especially true while buying clothes, and especially while buying clothes from the plus-size line of a mainstream retailer like Forever 21.

Even more to the point, Cailee tweeted, “thank u for reminding me that i don’t have a beach ready bod.”

Remarkably Unfashionable

The fashion industry has been working for several years to shed its body shaming image. Diversity and nonverbal messaging are essential for this. So it’s surprising to see a fast-fashion brand make such a stupid blunder. The apology they offered was a bit lame, mixed with a protest of innocence:

From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.

Atkins came up with an even weaker response. The company said “everyone can benefit from overall health and well-being.” Maybe that sounds good in the C-suite. Not so good when they’re pushing it down our throats. Literally.

Click here for more from Jezebel and here for more on the apologies.

Forever 21, photograph © Jim Pennucci / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


July 25, 2019

5 Responses to “Plus Size? Forever 21 Sends Atkins Bars”

  1. July 25, 2019 at 7:25 am, Lizabeth Wesely-Casella said:

    WHAT?!?!?! This is SO OFFENSIVE! What a shaming mechanism build into their systems. Whoever signed off on this needs to be fired immediately.

    Thanks for the great reporting!

  2. July 25, 2019 at 10:50 am, Michelle Vicari said:

    So my understanding from social media posts by Forever21 is the company has a 3rd party agreement to distribute samples (not just Atkins bars) in orders and that they went to all sizes ordered. Thankfully doesn’t appear to be targeted but someone didn’t think this one through… a definite marketing fail and given that lame response, even more, public relations fail.

  3. July 25, 2019 at 11:59 am, Donna Kasznel said:

    Wow! That is really surprising and a really poor choice for Forever 21 to make! Sometimes people can be really tone-deaf to how offensive their responses can be.

  4. July 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm, Mary-Jo said:

    Actually, they lost me at Forever 21. Whenever I passed this shop, I used to cringe. Can you say ‘ageism’? I surprised they weren’t called out sooner.

    • July 26, 2019 at 5:08 pm, Ted said:

      I never understood the branding either. But clearly I’m not their target.