8 May

As I gear up for my 8th summer here in Phoenix, I’m reminded of a couple of lessons I’ve learned over the years that have helped me cope with the heat: 1) a shady parking spot is worth the extra walking and 2) you can enjoy the outdoors as long as there’s water. With the latter lesson in mind, I recently took my kids to play in the splash pad at a nearby outdoor mall. If you are unfamiliar with “splash pads,” they’re basically play areas where kids can run through water fountains without feeling embarrassed that your kids are running through a water fountain. They’re designed for kids, and in Arizona, one would think that having a business located right in front of a splash pad would be prime real estate. Especially if your target market includes kids, like for instance if you’re selling candy….

So when we set-up shop at the splash pad, I knew there was no getting out of a trip into the bulk candy store located right in front of the play area. I happen to like candy as much as my little ones so it required very little persuading for me to agree to this treat. When we eventually made our way over to the shop, It’Sugar, my oldest daughter mentioned that she wanted to see “the ladies.” I didn’t know what she was talking about until we walked through the doors and I saw three racy manikins dressed in candy clothing. And I use the term “clothing” loosely here. I think one was meant to be in a bikini and the other two in lingerie. I recognize that it’s not everyday that my kids see people wearing candy, so I tried to focus on the novelty of the material, rather than the maturity and questionable appropriateness of it. But as we were paying and getting ready to leave, I couldn’t believe my eyes…So I snapped this picture on my phone and hustled the kids out the door.

Those little hands in the bottom right hand corner of the picture belong to my 5½ year old. Why am I allowing her to browse through the pornographic candy aisle?? I’m not! Those candy bars were lining the CHECK-OUT COUNTER!

These were at the check-out counter too:
And these (image from

And this text was printed on everything– water bottles, cups, bags….(image from

I was so upset when I left the store – mostly because I didn’t say something to the manager. So the next day I went back – without kids. When I expressed my concern over the fact that such adult themed candy was displayed right in the pathway of any kid walking into the store, the manager kindly acknowledged my concern but told me that while they are a “candy store” they’re merchandise is for kids and adults. When I mentioned that they were located right in front of a kids’ play area, he said “I see what you’re saying, but we didn’t have anything to do with the splash pad going into that location.”   When I asked him if the items located at the check-out counter could be moved to a more discrete area of the store, he told me “no.” He said he had no control over the location of merchandise and couldn’t move things around because those decisions came from “corporate.” He then encouraged me to contact them, which I did. You can read my email here, but all I really wanted to say was, “I don’t understand how you think this is okay.”

There are many researchers, journalists, child advocacy organizations and parents out there who are much better suited than I to speak about the hyper-sexualization we see in our culture today and the serious and negative consequences it has on our children. Awareness raised by these activists lead to the formation of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and the creation of a comprehensive Executive Summary which acknowledges that “ample evidence indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs.”  You can check out the full report here, and I strongly recommend getting involved with the work of Peggy Orenstein, Melissa Wardy, SPARK a Movement, and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) – just to name a few.

But what I can say on behalf of myself and the work we are doing on the Sanford Harmony Program, is that overexposure to sexual images and ideas affects how girls and boys think about each other and greatly impacts relationships later on. In the words of Diane Levin -Professor of Education,  author of ‘So Sexy, So Soon,’ and  founding member of the CCFC – “the problem is not that children are learning about sex; the problem is what they are learning about relationships.”

We want our kids to develop healthy and innocent friendships as children – friendships that allow them to learn and grow while cultivating positive communication, problem solving and relational skills along the way. Feeding our young kids a steady dose of sexually explicit content will only make things tremendously difficult and impossibly uncomfortable for them to come together in healthy, balanced relationships. And while this issue seems daunting, we can affect change by putting into action some of the recommendations that came out of the APA report : Complain to manufacturers, advertisers, television and movie producers and retail stores that “sell sex” with their products targeting children, and support campaigns, companies and products that promote healthy and positive images of girls and boys.


28 Responses to “It’Sugar”

  1. Missa May 8, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Nice job speaking up! Looks like we won’t be going into that store again!

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 7:23 am #

      Hopefully they’ll get their act together. It’d be a real shame if they didn’t make some changes – and not because we’d have to find another candy store.

  2. When the Kids Go To Bed May 8, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    That is appauling!

  3. Melissa Wardy May 8, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    I’m really proud of you for going back and advocating on behalf of all of our kids. The “it’s corporate” response is such baloney. Stop selling sex to our children!
    Great job and great post!

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks Melissa! And thank you so much for sharing the post – the Pigtail Pals community rocks, and I’m so glad they’re helping to get the message across to “corporate” that selling sex to children is unacceptable!

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. Laura May 8, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Good for you for going back and speaking to the manager and following up with corporate!
    I’m curious who was there first, the candy shop or the splash pad and if indeed the corprorate office does dictate the merchandising in that much detail. Given the labelling that certainly came from the head office, it doesn’t seem that they have much regard for the emotional and psychological well-being of children.

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Great question – I’m fairly certain the design and layout of the mall was established prior to tenants signing leases. From what I understand, that’s typically how it’s done. And for the record, there are still vacant spaces available in the mall that are located much farther away from the splash pad.

      Sent from my iPhone

  5. Josh S May 8, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I agree with you about the over-exposure of our children to sexual themes/imagery/marketing. It’s horrific that companies believe that because ‘sex sells’, they can inject it into any marketing for any demographic, no matter the consequences. Thank you for taking a stand, and *especially* for writing to the corporate offices.

    That said, the manager of this location is probably telling the truth about the requirements of corporate. Many MANY retail locations (whether corporate-owned or franchisees) are required to stock their merchandise based on a PlanOGram. (Yes, that is the actual name of it.) Corporate-owned stores are required to do it this way, or there are negative consequences (firings/demotions) for the managers. More often, franchisees are required to follow the PlanOGram as part of their franchising contract or face fines.

    Partly, this is for consistency–corporate wants every store to be laid out the same so that consumers feel ‘comfortable’ with the store no matter which location they visit. It’s part of the branding effort. But even more so, there’s an actual science to the PlanOGram. Companies (whether the retailer or the manufacturer of the brand-on-the-shelf) know that certain spaces on the shelf get bought more than others. The PlanOGram is designed to maximize sales in a store.

    Further, some retail stores SELL THEIR SHELF SPACE. If Mars or Hershey’s wants to be on the high-sales shelf, they’ll pay for the privilege. And then the retail store is *required* to put their product there or they’ll be in breach of contract and subject to all sorts of penalties/fines/whatever.

    So yeah, when the local store manager says, “It’s corporate. I can’t move it,” this is probably what he’s talking about. He may, quite literally, have his job on the line if he were to deviate from the PlanOGram.

    So write to corporate and make them change. Tell them that they’ll lose money (because you won’t shop there anymore) if they sell their Point-of-Purchase (POP) displays to companies that use sex to sell candy.

    You did the right thing by writing to corporate. I applaud you for taking the time and effort. Just realize the factors that go into local store management before you demand too much of a local store manager (not that you demanded too much here…I think you did the right thing, actually…just advice for the future).

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing all that insider information – very interesting! My issue was mainly with “corporate.” I did believe the manage felt there was nothing he could do, but I never knew how serious POGs were (and quite frankly, I never heard of a POG). Thanks again for all that info! Sent from my iPhone

    • Miech May 9, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      Helpful comment!

  6. Nina Badzin May 8, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Can you believe that Orenstein is speaking at our synagogue in a few weeks and I have to miss it!!?! So bummed.

    This post made me smile–not because they’re putting inappropriate images where kids can see them, but because I used to work at Confection Connection in high school and you know that Nettie would never have let that fly!

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      Nettie would have NEVER let that fly!!! You are so right Nina. That just made me smile!

      Sent from my iPhone

  7. Dana May 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    So, just because the store is near a place that children gather, the store needs to cater to their needs? It’s incumbent upon the child’s caregiver to look out for what’s appropriate for her or him. I know this isn’t going to be a popular post, and while I’m passionately against the sexualization of children’s toys and clothes, I don’t believe the world needs to completely revolve around children. Look before you go in the store. It seems like the offensive items were front and center and easy to see. If you don’t like them, don’t patronize the store. It’s as simple as that.

    • Stacy May 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      It really isn’t that simple, Dana. They walked into a candy store under the assumption that it was OK for kids. Do you make a practice of previewing candy stores to make sure they are appropriate for your children? You are right when you say the offensive candy was “front and center and easy to see.” I’m sure she will not take her kids back to this store, but the damage was done when they walked in the door.

    • Imelda Evans May 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

      I agree, Dana, that the world shouldn’t revolve around any particular interest group, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a candy store (or a lolly shop, as we would call it, Down Under) to be reasonably kid-friendly! I was stunned that these products even existed. Surely chocolate is popular enough without the dubious attraction of smut? But assuming you simply must sell them, to put them in point-of-sale displays at kid height (please note the height of the hands of the 51/2 yr old in the picture) seems unecessarily agressive.

      • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

        I couldn’t agree with you more Imelda!

        Sent from my iPad

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      There is no question that parents and caregivers have a tremendous responsibility for what children are exposed to. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to monitor every image and message your children take in. As parents, we do the best we can, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask companies to do the same. To suggest that moving sexually explicit candy out of the reach of children is “catering” to them is truly upsetting. While you’re entitled to believe that the world need not revolve around children, I’d be shocked if you really felt that we – as a society – didn’t have a responsibility to protect those who are yet unable to protect themselves. And there is no doubt that overexposure to sexual content and the sexualization of children’s products (toys, clothes, CANDY and more) is extraordinarily harmful.

      Sent from my iPad

      • Laura May 8, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

        well said, Hillary!

  8. raisarobin May 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Thank you, Superhero Princess for having high standards and speaking up for them. It’s not catering to children to keep phrases like “bitch” and “oral pleasure” out of the line of sight. I had this same problem at Blockbuster Video (R.I.P.) when a teen-sex comedy DVD was right there with the candy in the checkout line . . . with a rainbow of multi-covered condoms on the displayed cover. I expect my children to cry for candy in the checkout line. I do not tolerate a store that leads to crying for condoms.

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Agree! Asking for inappropriate merchandise to be out of the sight lines of little kids is not “catering” to anyone. It’s doing the right thing.

      Sent from my iPad

  9. Michele Alldredge Beyer May 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you for speaking up!!!

    • Hillary Manaster May 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

      Thank you for keeping an eye on my kids so I could! 😉

      Sent from my iPad

  10. CLARE May 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Umm… you can also just not go to that store. Also, none of the images were all that suggestive (glossed red lips is about as racy as I saw). The worst word I saw was Bitch. Do we really need to get our panties in a big bunch over this? Don’t go there. End of story.

  11. Michaela December 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Puhlease it’s not for kids. Just because it’sa place.that selss candy does.not meam it’s for children. The name of the store is Itsugar not its candy. Let us adults have fun &enjoy candy!!

  12. Beverly July 16, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    You ladies all need to relax you act like your children are so darn innocent. I have been to the it sugar at desert ridge marketplace and the teens there look like cheap 5$ hookers. Their parents do not give two shits about their kids and the disgusting revealing attire they parade around in. Going into a candy store is not going to over sexualize your children watching inappropriate movies, vulgar content on the Internet, and their school friends already does that. All the growth hormones in food leads to early child puberty and development in girls and boys and content from media is more influential than a stupid candy bar. When I go out I don’t want to see girls 12-13 or even younger wearing shorts so short their vagina and ass is hanging out. I did not find anything vulgar in these images. Violent lips are lip tattoos you know that right? You don’t like a business you don’t frequent it but to have them change their whole store for you and your children I think not. There are plenty of other candy stores you can take your business too. And blaming the manager obviously you have never worked retail. I have been a retail manager and we do receive planograms to follow per corporate and not adhering to those puts our job on the line I am not willing to put my job on the line because you were so easily offended. I wish people were more easily offended at bigger issues in our society like rape, racism, and inequality in our population financially. There are bigger problems in society than a stupid pms chocolate bar. Raise your kids to make the right choices and they will grow up to hopefully be beneficial assists to our society and help bring change to the sad world we live in.

  13. Joelle July 26, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    It’s a damn shame if the only reason you EXPECT the store to be “child-friendly” is because there is candy! Haven’t you been told not to get into a stranger’s van, EVEN WHEN THEY OFFER CANDY? Candy should not be the sole reason that a store is targeted at children. Last time I checked, adults love candy just as much as kids.. but here is the kicker.. they are the one’s with the money! It only makes sense to target to the one’s who actually rake in the dough than though begging mommy and daddy for their spare change and go in to ransack the joint for a tiny amount of candy that isn’t even enough to keep a business afloat. Go and do your research before making stupid assumptions. The owner himself said that his store is targeted towards the older teen, young adult generation. Why are adults not allowed to have a fun store to go into while getting a sweet treat? Go back in and look around again: notice there is no clothes that fit children? The IT’SUGAR concept is to have a store fun for adults with SOME product that they can buy and BRING HOME to their children; NOT have their rude, dirty and poorly taught children run around the store trying to eat the candy from the bins. Before slandering a business and hopping in a stranger’s van because you see some candy, do your research.


  1. It’Sugar « Superhero Princess | mamapeachykeen - May 8, 2012

    […] It’Sugar « Superhero Princess. […]

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