Nordstrom (JWN) became the latest retailer to land in hot water with customers over a piece of clothing intended to be humorous but instead offended some shoppers.
The upscale department store stopped selling Faux Real’s ‘Chai Maintenance’ Hanukkah sweater last week after angering some customers who saw it as playing on clichés about Jewish women and promptly took to Facebook to complain. ‘Chai’ in Hebrew means life and sounds very much like the English word “high.” The sweater, as seen below, also included the term “JAP,” short for “Jewish American Princess.”
“I’m disappointed to see that Nordstrom is selling such an offensive item that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Jewish women,” one user wrote on Nordstrom’s Facebook page. Many other posts echoed those sentiments.
(Screenshot of a JTA tweet.)
The removal came just days after rival Bloomingdale’s apologized for a catalog ad critics said made light of date rape, and Target (TGT) came in for criticism over a sweater seen as mocking people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. (Target apologized but will continue to sell the sweater.) A few weeks ago, Walmart (WMT) got some heat over a Halloween costume of an Israeli soldier.
The incidents show how tricky it is for retailers to try to be hip and irreverent in an era in which customers can quickly revolt and protests can spread like fire on social media.
“We made a mistake by not looking more closely at the words on the sweater before we posted it – had we done so, we wouldn’t have offered it,” a Nordstrom spokeswoman told Fortune on Sunday by email. “As soon as we heard from customers, we removed it from our site right away. We’re terribly sorry for offending people and sincerely apologize.”
Nordstrom, consistently one of the best performing retailers in recent years, can scarcely afford to offend customers at a time of suddenly weak business: the retailer last week reported weak third-quarter sales and warned Wall Street that the quarter containing holiday season would not be much better/ The news sent shares plummeting 15% on Friday.