A story on the MailOnline website at the weekend reporting on the announcement that Debenhams will sell hijabs as part of a new range of Muslim clothing to be launched in its stores from May, itself became a story after readers posted numerous comments online criticising the department store and calling for a ‘boycott’.
The new range of clothing, including hijabs, tops, dresses, jumpsuits, kimono wraps, hijab pins and caps, will be sold at five of its stores across the country. Aab, an international brand which sells ‘contemporary modest wear’ for women, will open an outlet inside Debenhams’ central London store on Oxford Street.
The Mail Online reported other stores which will stock the new range as Birmingham’s Bullring, Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Leicester’s Highcross Shopping Centre. All the cities have large ethnic minority populations.
The roll-out of the Aab brand in Debenhams’ UK stores coincides with an international launch at Debenhams’ branches across the Middle East and Asia, including in Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Jeanette Whithear, international trading director for Debenhams, said the new collection would be “highly relevant” and “cater for broader customer needs”.
She said the addition of the Aab range “enables us to offer collections that are highly relevant in both international markets and to our domestic customers.”
Aab founder Nazmin Alim was enthusiastic about the opportunities saying the partnership “opens up some very exciting opportunities for us. Debenhams is a quintessentially British department store and among the few department store brands with a truly global reach.
While Debenhams is not the first UK department store to sell hijabs or clothing aimed at Muslim customers, the announcement nevertheless elicited a mixed, and prolific response in the online sphere. The MailOnline article attracted 1,400 comments from readers with some ‘losing their minds’ while others attempted to interject some perspective.
One reader, named ‘null’ simply wrote “Boycott!” while ‘JonnyC’ wrote “I never shop at Debenhams anyway but even more so now”. Others who were more circumspect included ‘carmelthecat’ who wrote, “There are plenty of shops in my area selling these goods. So what? You don’t have to buy them or enter the shops….Take your choice.”
‘Second city’ from Birmingham commended the store saying, “It’s a good idea diversity is a good thing. People need to relax and stop getting upset over it.” ‘Hailstar81’ praised Debenhams strategy. “Fair enough, bringing in an international concession that provides attire to a certain section of the market is actually a very good business strategy!..I don’t understand why anyone has a problem with this.”
The Indy100 reported that the hysteria was not solely confined to the Daily Mail’s comments section, with activity also noted in the Twitter sphere. In an article titled ‘Debenhams is selling hijabs and bigots are losing their minds’, the news site posted a number of Twitter reactions to the story.
Among them was a tweet from ‘Yeeha’ who apparently sent Debenhams a letter of complaint while ‘Mart31’ called the store a “disgrace” and said he would “push for a petition”.
A tweet from ‘Karla McKarlaFace’ summed up the over-reaction by addressing those who were “up in arms that Debenhams is going to sell hijab”. She commented, “They’ve been selling them for decades, you utter morons, just called scarves.”