Saturday, December 03, 2005

Mall shields Santa from suggestive storefront

Mall administrators put up a black curtain after complaints from parents.

By Jenny Kincaid Boone
The Roanoke Times

ROANOKE, Va. - A white Christmas tree decorated with black and hot-pink teddy bears perhaps is the most innocent item in Victoria's Secret's storefront windows.

But a tall mannequin in a skimpy hot-pink thong and a bra, black lace and a hot-pink Santa Claus hat are not necessarily what some parents expect their children to see when they jump onto St. Nick's lap to tell him their Christmas wishes. Nor do they expect to see a window in front of them with the words "Give Me Sexy" scrawled across the glass in pink.

Until Thursday, all this was in plain view of Santa's booth at Valley View Mall in Roanoke. But after complaints from some parents who were concerned about their children being exposed to the images, mall administrators put up a black curtain to shield Santa's chair from the displays.

"I want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable," said Mandy York, mall spokeswoman. "We can't move the store ... We don't have control over what they put in their windows."

Santa's booth usually is located in a center area of the mall near the Old Navy entrance. Each year it is set up on different sides of the center, depending on where temporary retailers put their booths, York said. This year, the Santa chair sits in front of J.C. Penney Co. and diagonal from Victoria's Secret.

"We want to keep everybody happy," York said. "Now, they can't see the window display."

A manager at the Roanoke Victoria's Secret store referred media calls to the company's corporate office in Columbus, Ohio. Anthony Hebron, a spokesman for Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret, did not return calls for comment about whether the Roanoke store planned to remove its displays.

Shirley Fairchild, a grandmother from Botetourt County, said the black curtain did a good job of hiding the lingerie-clad mannequins from children's view.

"I had planned to complain, but I see they screened it," she said as she waited in line to see Santa with her two grandchildren, Allison, 11, and Logan, 6. "It was nice that the mall responded."

But parents Stefanie and Sean Tomlin of Lexington said they weren't concerned about the mannequins.

"They're [children] exposed to that stuff every day," said Stefanie Tomlin, standing in Santa's line with her two children, one 5 weeks old and the other age 4.

Roanoke County mother Shannon Somers agreed. She said most children who are old enough to understand what Victoria's Secret sells no longer sit on Santa's lap. She compared the situation to guarding children from watching certain television shows.

"If you don't want your child to see it, turn the channel," said Somers, who waited in line with her 2-year-old son.

This is not the first time that people have chastised Victoria's Secret's suggestive image. In October, some shoppers complained about store mannequins wearing feathery thongs and standing in sexual poses at a new Victoria's Secret store at Tysons Corner in Vienna, Va.

Hebron told The Washington Post that the displays were part of the company's national marketing campaign.


  1. Good for that mall, and for the kids and parents. One thing I have hoped for with my own kids was to keep them innocent as long as possible. (and yes you can in this day and age) Kids should be kids and shouldnt have their innocence taken from them. Kids should be able to play and enjoy all the innocence of the age . My kids have not nor are as teenagers "exposed to that stuff everyday". If kids are being exposed to it, then shame on us for allowing it.

  2. I agree that kids should stay innocent for as long as they can, but the mall's just covering its behind.

    They can never seem to get Santa positioned where he won't be facing something potentially offensive. One year, when Abercrombie & Fitch was selling (seemingly) something other than clothes, Santa was over there too.