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British retailer admits boo-boo over bra charges

THE Battle of the Bust is over, and consumers have triumphed. Britain's largest clothing retailer, Marks & Spencer, has backed down on its incendiary policy of charging a 2 pound (US$3) surcharge for bras that are size DD or larger in the face of a spreading consumer revolt.

Think women don't care about this issue? Then think again - that's what M&S executives had to do after some 14,000 women gave their names to a Facebook campaign aimed at eliminating the big-boob penalty.

"We always try to do the right thing by our customers and we thought we had, but it's clear we've got it wrong this time," said M&S chairman Stuart Rose. "From Saturday, no matter whether it's large or small bras you need, the price will be the same."

To get the message out, the company paid for an eye-catching full-page advertisement in several national newspapers yesterday. It showed a full-figured woman in lacy green lingerie. In the ad, the company apologized for its mistake and offered a 25-percent discount on all bras of all sizes for the next two weeks.

"We are just overwhelmed," said Becky Mount, a co-founder of the Busts 4 Justice group that brought retailing icon M&S to its knees with a canny Internet and media campaign. "We've won, and we never thought it would happen so quickly."

The group, which grew exponentially in the past few days, had vowed to challenge Rose and other M&S executives at the company's annual meeting this summer. Mount said this threat, and growing media support for their crusade, made the company's leaders realize they were losing the public relations battle.

"They didn't want a lot of big-breasted women storming their meeting," said Mount, 19. "I think they realized they were dealing with a much bigger force than they thought originally, and that we weren't going to go away."

She said the group's members would shop at M&S now that the surcharge has been dropped.


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