Retailers Seem Afraid to Talk About Bedbugs

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Photo: NYM

After a small bedbug infestation in the Victoria's Secret on Lexington Avenue was made public last week, more shoppers are looking for reassurance. Stores that want to sell us things should be able to ensure their stores are bedbug-free — right? WWD tried to investigate what kinds of preventative measures retailers are taking against the vermin. Lord & Taylor said they haven't found any bugs but have increased the frequency of exterminations to once a week. Bergdorf Goodman said they are "currently in the process of formulating a plan." But other stores contacted by WWD, including Saks, Bloomingdale's, Ralph Lauren, Gap, and J.Crew declined to comment.

Naturally, fashion companies — especially the most luxurious ones — don't want to be associated with something gross like bedbugs. No one wants to even call to mind the image of bringing home a pet bedbug in a brand new $12,000 fur-trimmed handbag. But some shoppers are freaked out. Some shoppers are afraid to go into the wild world of carpeted stores full of wooden shelves and knit sweaters and so many things made of fabric and other bedbug-friendly materials. Is it so hard to reassure us that a bedbug-prevention plan will be in place? Can the industry institute some sort of "no bedbug zone" sticker policy for stores that have preventative bedbug measures firmly established? The Council of Fashion Designers of America said bedbugs have "not come up as a concern from our membership," but that it is "ready to actively engage if the situation warrants it and is open to direction and advice from those who are experienced in this area."

Experts told us that the recent cases of bedbugs in retail establishments aren't a new phenomenon — they just haven't been making news until now. But now that everyone's talking about bedbugs, fashion companies should be, too.

Does This Bug You, Too? [WWD]