Retail chain TK Maxx found itself embroiled in the knife-crime debate last week after stores were found to be selling dangerous weapons. On Friday it was discovered that the firm was selling Swiss-made Strellson jackets with attached pen-knives. Just two days later news broke that stores were selling a walking stick concealing a 20-inch sword.
- The reaction?
The initial story made the front page of The Sun, with the walking stick revelations featuring prominently in the News of the World. The reports were picked up by the rest of the nationals, with many international titles also carrying the story. A number of reports directly linked the items to the wider issue of knife-crime and noted that the jacket in question was a 'hoodie' and specifically aimed at young males. Stories also featured quotes from angry members of the public, campaigners and police.
- Who are the PR players here?
TK Maxx, which handles its own PR via parent TJX, quickly pulled both items off shelves and was quoted in both initial reports saying that it 'supports and enforces' all knife-related laws, the incidents were 'unintentional' and that they were 'surprised and concerned' about the reports. A customer statement was also prominently featured on its website saying that as a 'responsible company' it would 'prevent this from happening again'.
- What happens next?
TK Maxx relies on its prices rather than a premium image, but there is little doubt this week constitutes a PR disaster. The company reacted quickly by issuing statements and taking the offending items off shelves, but being linked to the highly emotive issue of knife-crime could prove disastrous. The revelations are particularly damaging because last year an employee was stabbed to death in one of its stores.
£59 - Reduced price of jacket that concealed penknife.