sears

After nipple controversy, Sears to pull 'exotic' lingerie from website

Sep. 14, 2012 at 5:46 PM ET

Sears.com /
This screenshot shows the lingerie that initially caused controversy because of the model's visible nipple. The image was taken down, and subsequently, Sears decided to pull the whole section of its website.

Controversy over an image on its website has shed light on a different part of Sears, and it’s not the softer side.

Sears made the decision Friday to remove the “Exotic Apparel’’ section of its website featuring items like see-through slips, leather thongs and studded fishnet outfits, company spokesperson Tom Aiello told TODAY.com. That section of the site was in the process of being removed on Friday, he said.

On Thursday, the company took down an image on its “Exotic Apparel’’ section online that featured a model’s visible right nipple through a purple mesh slip after users and organizations like the American Family Association called attention to it. The image was posted by a third-party vendor named Fright Depot and was taken down immediately once it was brought to the attention of Sears, according to Aiello.

“We started a discussion about whether we even need that Exotic Apparel section of the website,’’ Aiello said. “We have made a decision to take that whole section of the site down. There was not a lot of negative customer feedback. It was more of just looking at it in terms of the benefits of taking it down outweighing the benefits of keeping it up. It’s not something that we need to keep up.’’

The purple slip was one of several racy items available in the Exotic Apparel section, which also included leather thongs, a matching leather tie and G-string and a fishnet teddy with studs all pictured on scantily-clad models. All of the items under Exotic Apparel are provided by third-party vendors that are part of the marketplace on Sears.com. Unlike items listed under “Intimates & Sleepwear’’ on the website, Exotic Apparel offerings are only available online and aren’t sold in Sears locations.

There have been past instances of inappropriate images making their way on the Sears site through third-party vendors, but the company said it is making efforts to minimize those instances while policing the 40 million different products sold through its site.

“We have a lot of things in place to make sure those products fit in our marketplace guidelines between our own audits and customers letting us know,’’ said Aiello. “We are doing these audits on a regular basis and implementing technology to do that, but even with all those things in place, there is the occasional thing that happens. When it does, we apologize and immediately take it down. I think we're gotten better in past couple of years and are learning from these things.’’

The American Family Association feels that Sears is not doing enough to prevent the inappropriate images from appearing on the website. The AFA has been sending alerts to its two million members for the past two years about the Sears website and has tried to contact Sears directly to talk about the images, according to Randy Sharp, the AFA director of special projects.

 “It’s not just been this photo, but hundreds of photos of nudity on their website… ,” Sharp told TODAY.com. “Our contention is that Sears shouldn't use their customers to police their own website. Sears needs to take it seriously to monitor the website for things that violate their own policy.’’ 

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