Retailers have played down the potential impact of a government inquiry into the “sexualisation” of kidswear and said the issue was not widespread.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather this week asked Reg Bailey, chief executive of Christian charity Mothers’ Union, to conduct a review of what the Government said was “the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood”, to address parental concerns that kids are being pressurised to grow up too quickly.
Earlier this year, value retailer Primark removed a £4 padded bikini top for children from sale following media pressure, and other retailers including Tammy, Tesco, Next and Peacocks were found to be selling padded bras in kidswear sections.
Recommendations following the review, which is set to be published in May, could include the introduction of a watchdog and a code of conduct for retailers to follow, although a spokesperson for the Government declined to confirm details.
It is understood the review panel will take retailers’ views into account.
However, David Carter-Johnson, former chief executive of kidswear retailer Adams, said he believed the sexualisation of kidswear was not a widespread problem within the industry. “I think the Government wants to be seen to be doing the right thing,” he said, adding it would be “unbelievably difficult” to legislate.
He added: “It’s terribly difficult to tell where to draw the line. Where do you start? Even if a padded bra was in a bra shop, how do you stop a 10-year-old girl from going in there and buying it with her mum?”
Another retail chief executive said he did not believe there were many retailers guilty of wilfully sexualising kids’ clothing. He added that most retailers had a “mature” approach to selling appropriate product.
A spokesman for Debenhams said the department store chain already had “strong guidelines in place on kidswear.
Teather said the review would look at how to “encourage all businesses to take their responsibilities as seriously as the best ones already do”.