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It’s bad enough Marshalls sells major labels at knockdown prices. Now it’s knocking department store buyers for being inept — and some buyers are less than pleased.

A series of Marshalls TV commercials now airing explains the backstory of the off-pricer’s fashion maneuvers, from fickle photographers to inept buyers, with the off-pricer always the beneficiary. Amy, a department store buyer, is a one-woman wrecking machine, fracturing the French language and making faux pas that cost her company. “Paris was great,” says the blonde buyer. “I was there on a buying trip. I get to travel the world, go to the shows, meet with the designers. I like to think that on every trip I really learn something. I learned that cinq mille is actually 5,000 not 500….That little slip actually caused me to over-order a few thousand designer blouses. But hey, it happens. Department store buyers, we’re human. I’m still working on my French.”

While even fashion insiders thought the ads were funny, they weren’t overwhelmed by the portrayal of their profession (hey, don’t Marshalls’ buyers ever make mistakes?). “The commercials were slightly demeaning to the role of a merchant,” said Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s. She also finds the premise unrealistic. “I’ve never met a buyer who made a mistake based on not knowing a language,” Solomon said. The buyer in the commercial was portrayed as being less than professional, Solomon said. “Buyers are highly trained,” she added. “The commercial promotes a misconception of what the job of a buyer is. For example, the idea that the job of a buyer is glamorous. The percentage of glamour is about 1 percent.”

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, found the commercial implausible, but amusing. “There are a lot of checks and balances [to ensure] that mistakes aren’t made,” he said. “In this day and age, there isn’t anyone who is placing an order for 5,000 when she needs 500. I guess Amy doesn’t work for a large enough organization where someone is overseeing her buy. ” Downing wasn’t deeply offended. “I have to say it’s clever,” he said. “It makes for fun television.”

Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director of Macy’s, found the commercial to be “kind of cute. It’s not offensive.” Having said that, she added, “It doesn’t make buyers look very professional. They’re very assertive and very sure of themselves and would know the difference between 5,000 and 500.” — Sharon Edelson


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